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Usa News

A suspect in the Lockerbie bombing is in US custody. Here’s what you need to know.

Investigators said the bomb was in a Samsonite suitcase which was boarded via a supply flight from the Mediterranean island nation of Malta.

All 243 passengers and 16 crew members were killed. A family of four were among the 11 residents killed on the ground.

A total of 190 Americans and 43 British citizens died, along with 19 other nationalities.

The impact caused a crater more than 150 feet deep and was strong enough to be measured as a seismic event, the FBI said. Debris from the crash was scattered over 845 square miles.

Who has just been charged and why?

Mas’ud is the first person to be charged on US soil in connection with the disaster.

The Ministry of Justice charged him with two counts in December 2020, accusing him of having worked in various capacities for the Libyan intelligence services, including as a technical expert in the construction of explosive devices. , from approximately 1973 to 2011.

The US case is partly based on an interview Mas’ud gave to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after he was arrested following the collapse of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, the country’s longtime leader. .

In that interview, US officials said Mas’ud admitted to building the bomb during the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to execute it.

He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gaddafi thanked him and other team members after the attack, according to an FBI affidavit filed in the case.

However, some observers have questioned the validity of this evidence, given political and military unrest in Libya in 2012, the same year Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed in an attack on a forward -American diplomatic post in Benghazi.

“The case against him apparently rests on a confession he made in detention, which given the situation in Libya and the fact that there was no functioning justice system at the time, you you have to ask yourself whether or not these confessions should have any weight,” said John Ashton, an author who has written about Lockerbie, including a book in collaboration with al-Megrahi.

Ashton also asked how Mas’ud was incarcerated in the United States – which remains unclear.

Late last month, local Libyan media reported that Mas’ud had been abducted by armed men from his residence in Tripoli, the capital. This report quoted a family statement that accused authorities in Tripoli of being silent on the kidnapping.

Local residents watch one of the four engines of the Pan Am 103 which exploded killing 270 people in December 1988. Roy Letkey / AFP – Getty Images file

Who else has been charged?

Former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was tried by a panel of three Scottish judges in 2001 before a special court in the Netherlands. He was convicted of 270 counts of murder, received a life sentence, and was the only person convicted for his involvement in Lockerbie.

A Maltese shopkeeper identified al-Megrahi during the 2001 trial as the man who bought clothes that were in the suitcase, thus linking the Libyan to the explosive. His family and some legal commentators have raised concerns about the evidence.

Al-Megrahi was charged by British and American authorities in 1991, but Libya did not allow his extradition and placed him under house arrest for more than seven years. Eventually, Gaddafi agreed to a trial in a neutral country – the Netherlands – under Scottish law.

Al-Megrahi lost one appeal and dropped another before being released in 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was terminally ill with cancer, having served 8.5 years. Still claiming his innocence, he died in Libya three years later.

Another alleged Libyan intelligence agent, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted of all charges.

The bomb destroyed a Pan Am flight over Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people.Roy Letkey / AFP – Getty Images file

What were the repercussions?

The US and UK have spent years trying to secure an admission of guilt and compensation for Libyan victims, using the sanctions as a tool to pressure.

This happened in 2003 when Libya’s ambassador to the United Nations, Ahmed Own, said his country claimed “responsibility for the actions of its officials” regarding Lockerbie, and paid $8 million to the family of each victim minus the huge legal bill. US and UN sanctions were then lifted.

The momentous decision to release al-Megrahi in 2009 was taken by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – experts have called it the most important diplomatic decision ever taken by the Scottish government, which has separate legal powers from the UK government in London.

The release was met with jubilant scenes in Libya, where al-Megrahi was greeted by thousands of supporters in the capital, Tripoli. President Barack Obama called the decision a mistake. Susan Cohen, from New Jersey, whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora died in the attack, said at the time: “‘I think it’s appalling, disgusting and so sickening that I can hardly find words to describe it.

What are families saying now?

“This is what we fought for,” said Kara Weipz, president of the Pan Am Flight 103 victims and sister of Richard Monetti, one of the Syracuse students who was killed in the disaster.

“This was a major coordinated effort by many parts of our government, and we’re just grateful for that,” she told Politico after the arrest was announced on Sunday. “It’s not finished, but it’s a great first step.”

Jim Swire, a British doctor whose daughter Flora died aboard Flight 103, told the BBC any trial of Mu’sa would have to take place in the US or the UK. He is among the family members of the victims who question the evidence used to convict al-Megrahi in 2001.

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