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Abu Agela Mas’ud will not face death penalty in Lockerbie bombing, US says

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Prosecutors said in federal court on Monday that the law does not allow them to seek the death penalty for the former Libyan intelligence officer accused of building the bomb that destroyed an airliner flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 270 people, including 190 Americans. .

Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir al-Marimi, 71, made his first appearance in US District Court in Washington on Monday afternoon, a day after US authorities announced they had extradited him. He would be the first person prosecuted in the United States in connection with the attack 34 years ago.

Years ago, the Justice Department indicted two other men in connection with the killings, but Libyan officials never agreed to allow them to appear in US court. Instead, they were prosecuted in a Scottish court. Officials have so far declined to say what deal they reached with Libya to bring Mas’ud to the United States.

Mas’ud faces two different criminal charges, including the downing of a plane resulting in death. He could be sentenced to life in prison. Prosecutors told Magistrate Judge Robin M. Meriweather that while the charges against Mas’ud now carry the death penalty, they were not eligible for the death penalty in 1988.

The Lockerbie bombing launched a global investigation. Here’s what you need to know.

Mas’ud, who was born in Tunisia and also holds Libyan nationality, appeared with a public defender, limping into the courtroom wearing a green prison jumpsuit. Relatives of the victims killed in the attack were present.

Speaking in Arabic through an interpreter, he told the judge he had the flu and was taking medication, and wanted to get his own lawyer but had not done so yet. . “I can’t speak until I have my lawyer,” Mas’ud said.

Meriweather agreed to postpone the detention hearing until December 27.

Until September 11, 2001, the bombing of the Boeing 747 was the largest terrorist attack against American civilians in history. This led to sanctions against Libya and helped shape the FBI’s handling of international investigations.

In 1991, Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and his alleged accomplice Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were indicted in the Lockerbie bombing. Libya initially refused to send them to the US or Britain for trial, instead handing them over in 1999 to stand trial in a Scottish court at a former US military base in the Netherlands. Down.

Fhimah was acquitted, while Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Megrahi died in 2012, about three years after being released from prison with a cancer diagnosis.

Mas’ud was charged years later, after the FBI obtained a copy of a 2012 interview with him by a Libyan law enforcement agent.

According to the US affidavit filed in support of the criminal case, Mas’ud admitted to making the bomb that brought down the plane and helped Megrahi and Fhimah carry out the plot.

Mas’ud was detained in Libya in an unrelated case.

State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to give details on Monday about what led to his transfer to the United States. “It’s safe to say that this happened in consultation with the relevant Libyan authorities and that the United States is in regular contact and discussion with our Libyan counterparts, but I should leave it at that,” Price told reporters. during a press briefing.

John Hudson contributed to this report.

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