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Verdict Reached in Lockerbie TrialAired January 31, 2001 - 5:00 a.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANAND NAIDOO, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to special coverage of the Lockerbie bombing trial verdict. I'm Anand Naidoo, at CNN Center. We welcome our viewers from around the world.
We're standing by for a verdict to be handed down any minute now: Two Libyans are accused of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.
Richard Blystone joins us now from outside the court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.
Richard, what's happening there?
RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anand, many members of the families, bereaved parents, widows, and widowers are inside there now, about a dozen from Britain and dozens, I would say, from the United States. Nearly three-quarters of the 270 victims of Pan Am Flight 103 were Americans.
The closed circuit television coverage of the trial is not available to us, but it is available to families around the world, in Britain, in England and Scotland, and in the United States. So those people will hear the verdict microseconds after it happens.
What the three judges -- are probably right now filing into the courtroom, the court will rise, and the judges will sit and will give their verdicts in the case of the two Libyans, Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, allegedly a Libyan intelligence agent accused of bringing the Lockerbie bomb into Malta from Libya from where it was transshipped to Frankfurt, West Germany, on to London, where it joined Pan Am Flight 103.
The other accused: Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. He was an ex-station manager for Libyan Arab Airlines, in Malta.
The prosecution case hinging on the fact that the judges must believe beyond reasonable doubt that the bomb actually entered this chain at Malta, and thus that the two were able to -- and probably the only ones able to -- have put it aboard the Air Malta plane for Frankfurt.
The prosecution has torn into that argument in its - I mean, excuse me, the defense has torn into that argument, saying that any clever terrorist would not choose to put a bomb aboard in Malta with two intersecting flights and hope that it would be on time -- unaccompanied, undetected in that flight leaving from London hours later.
So if the judges are convinced beyond reasonable doubt, we will be getting the verdict any second now. They have three choices: guilty, innocent, or case not proven. In the case of guilty, an appeal would probably be launched almost immediately. In the case of innocent, whichever or both are declared innocent will be free to leave.
We understand, although we don't have it officially, that they will be turned over to Dutch authorities and then put on a United Nations plane back to Libya. That would be retracing the trip they made almost two years ago, April 5, 1999, which was more than a year before the start of this trial -- that was May 3, 2000. The trial was a very long one, starting nine months ago: 84 days of testimony, 235 witnesses, the prosecution case lasting into November, the defense case very brief -- Anand.
NAIDOO: Richard, as you point out, there was many standards, many milestones, reached in this trial, also that of in forensic investigation. I mean, the prosecution was trying to show that the materials used in the construction of...
BLYSTONE: We have a verdict, Anand, we have a verdict. We have a verdict: I'm hearing from the relay from the courtroom that Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi has been found guilty of murder in the Lockerbie bombing.
We're waiting now to hear the verdict in the case of Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah -- Megrahi, 48 years old, alleged to have been a Libyan agent who brought the bomb from Libya into Malta, where it was placed aboard an Air Malta flight for Frankfurt, West Germany, then on to London; it tagged for New York, and it got aboard Pan Am Flight 103.
We're waiting now to hear what else -- we're waiting now for the second: not guilty for Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah. Forty-four years old, he had been up to a couple of months before the bombing, the station manager for Libyan Arab Airways in Malta. It was -- the prosecution alleged that it was he who used his airport connections and his airport pass to get baggage tags consigning the suitcase containing the radio cassette player containing the bomb onto this Air Malta flight. So he is not guilty; he will be free to go home to Libya.
We will be waiting now to hear what the defense of Mr. Megrahi will say. The right of appeal is not automatic, but in this case, it is thought very likely it would be granted. The defense lawyer for Megrahi, William Taylor, will be putting in a plea for that -- for that appeal.
If that appeal is granted, it would be heard before five Scottish judges, different judges, from the same high Scottish Court. It would be heard here in Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands, the compromise site agreed between Britain, the United States and Libya, if Megrahi wants to be present. Otherwise, it could be heard in Edinburgh, Scotland -- Anand. NAIDOO: Richard, take us through the sequence of events. What are we expecting now to happen is that the defense, at least Al- Megrahi's defense, will now present -- would it be mitigating arguments to the judge?
BLYSTONE: That is a possibility, but we will not know the timing of this, Anand, until it actually happened. There's -- there was expected to be a pause in the courtroom while the defense digests this, and then the opportunity for the announcement of an appeal. It may well be that the pronouncing of a sentence would come before that. We'll just have to wait, I'm sorry, until that happens.
But once again, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, whose lawyer, in October, moved for the charges against him to be dropped, because there was no evidence he was even in that airport in Malta on the date of the bombing -- he has been declared not guilty, innocent. The judges had another option here: They could have ruled case not proven. That is possible in Scottish law, but apparently, they did not, and in the case of Abdel Baset Ali Al-Megrahi, they found the prosecution's totally circumstantial case to be convincing enough to be beyond reasonable doubt.
The defense in this case really had to prove nothing. All it had to do was to do enough to tear apart the prosecution case to win acquittal.
Now, what the judges had to believe was that the bomb was indeed put aboard at Malta and that Megrahi was instrumental in putting it there. The evidence gathered over years of investigation, 15,000 people interviewed, 180,000 fragments of evidence, resulted in what was a very delicate web of circumstance designed to show that Megrahi was the one who brought the bomb and that Fhimah helped him to put it aboard.
It has been an exercise throughout in the uses of circumstantial evidence. The prosecution case depends on this: In one of the items of debris from the bombing was found a piece of clothing and embedded in it a fragment of circuit board. Detectives, investigators, linked that circuit board to circuit boards used in the past by Libya. The prosecution brought forward a witness from a clothing store in Malta who said he had sold that piece of clothing to Abdel Baset Ali Al- Megrahi. The defense tried to rip up that identification; obviously, though, the judges were persuaded -- Anand.
NAIDOO: Richard, stay with us, we're now going to go to the village of Lockerbie, where villagers there have also been awaiting this verdict. Joining us from there is our senior international correspondent Walter Rodgers -- Walter.
WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Anand.
In about an hour and 15 minutes, officials in the town of Lockerbie, in the town hall just behind me, will be holding a news conference, and they will be rendering their judgment on the quality of the verdict in the trial of the -- of the two men who were accused in this trial of bringing down Pan Am Flight 103. For most of the 4,000 Scots who live in this town, however, they're hoping this will be something of a final chapter. A collective sigh of relief could almost be heard throughout the town.
It has been a 12-year-long ordeal for the 4,000 Scots who live here. Many of them lived through the nightmare of that night. The town did, indeed, lose 11 of its citizens the night the jumbo jet, the 747, blew up over the town and the fiery debris rained down.
Curiously, of the surviving relatives, only one of the Lockerbie surviving relatives is still in the town. As I say, most people in the town would like to bring this to some sort of a closure. They are, I'm sure, grateful the verdict is completed now. And they can get on with the rest of their lives, and just be another quiet lull in the Scots town, just a little north of the English border -- Anand.
NAIDOO: Walter, stay with us as well.
We're now going to go to Manhattan in New York, where some relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie tragedy have been watching the verdict on closed-circuit television.
Frank Buckley is outside the federal building in downtown Manhattan and joins us now -- Frank.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.
This is one of the locations, where family members of the victims of this tragedy have been able to come for the past several months to watch the trial unfold on a closed-circuit television, in a room here at the Jacob Javitz Federal Building.
They are able to watch the trial by themselves. No reporters have been able to be present, or any sorts of observers. They've been able to take in the trial. And several of them have stayed throughout the trial watching every day. Others have just arrived this morning to hear the verdict announced.
We know that this morning, some 25 people or so stayed together in a hotel here in New York City. They came together in a bus to this location, and have watched on a wide-screen TV to see the verdict read in the court.
Now we are expecting at some point later this morning for some of them to come out. They haven't organized anything, per se, but we do expect them to come out at some point today, and to tell us their reaction to the verdict.
We know that they were concerned that some of the prosecution, because it was circumstantial and because one of the key witnesses was attacked so heavily by the defense in cross-examination, there was some concern that there would not be a guilty verdict to come out of this trial. Some of them will undoubtedly be happy that there is at least one guilty verdict. But again, we are still waiting for them to come out to give us their reaction.
NAIDOO: OK, Frank, thank you.
Now the London "Times" newspaper referred to the case as the biggest and costliest mass murder case in British history.
For his assessment we're joined now by David Leppard. We'll get back to David Leppard.
We're going to go back to Richard Blystone now, who's at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands -- Richard.
BLYSTONE: Hell, Anand.
Well, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the 44-year-old ex-station manager of Libyan Arab Airways on the Island of Malta, where the bomb allegedly started its journey, has now been escorted from the courtroom.
We understand that he will be turned over from Scottish authorities here in Camp Zeist -- this is a little bit of Scotland here. He will be turned back over to the Dutch, who will turn him over to the United Nations. He will be free to go and forever beyond the reach of criminal courts, we are told, in any country.
Ali Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi is still sitting in the court, we understand, awaiting the pronouncement of sentence and perhaps the launching of an appeal by his defense -- Anand.
NAIDOO: OK, thanks, Richard. We'll get back to you in a moment.
Now let's go to our guest in London, David Leppard of London "Sunday Times." He's covered this trial and in fact -- not the trial but the events since the bombing of the plane 12 years ago.
Mr. Leopard, there's a split verdict here, one guilty, one not guilty. What do you make of that?
DAVID LEPPARD, "SUNDAY TIMES": Well, it sounds a bit confusing, but this is a tremendous triumph, in fact, for the British law enforcement system and particularly for the Scottish police who worked so hard and so assiduously to produce a case which could stand up in an independent court.
I think there'll be tremendous relief in the law enforcement in community in Britain and America, about the guilty verdicts on one of the defendants, Megrahi. Clearly, this verdict sustains their evidence. It sustains the forensic case. It sustains the eyewitness evidence, which pointed to Megrahi as the man who bought clothes in a shop in Malta, which were forensically linked to the bomb parts when it was recovered around Lockerbie after the crash.
A lot of people were saying that the prosecution case was contaminated; that it had been affected by political considerations. I think this verdict of the guilty on the one defendant really does ride roughshod over that assessment.
This is a fine piece of criminal detective work. A lot of people here and in America will be very, very pleased about the guilty verdict.
NAIDOO: Well, as you point out, you know, a fine piece of criminal detective work, but it does -- the guilty verdict does beg the question: Did Al-Megrahi basically sit down in a coffee shop in Malta and dream this up?
LEPPARD: I think that's obviously not the case.
The police, the security services, the FBI have always taken the view, since this evidence has been acquired, that this was a conspiracy by the Libyan intelligence services; that Megrahi, although he is the only convicted defendant in the dock, was simply a pawn or an instrument of a wider conspiracy involving Libyan intelligence services and the Libyan government at the very highest level.
And I think one of the questions now that is raised by this verdict is: Who else inside the Libyan government, inside the Libyan security operators was involved in the murder of these 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing?
NAIDOO: And will we ever know that?
LEPPARD: Well, we certainly won't know it in the sense that we know that Megrahi is guilty today. I don't think there's going to be any further indictments issued. I don't think that the level of evidence against others unknown, as the indictments originally put it, is sufficient to be put before a court of law.
I think the guilty verdict on one of the defendants, although there is of course likely to be an appeal, should put this case to bed as it were. A lot of the relatives will, I think, be very relieved that at last we have established beyond reasonable doubt that one of these two individuals was behind the bombing.
NAIDOO: OK. Mr. Leppard, there's one other question. You've covered this trial, at least the crash and the investigation very closely. What can you -- can you kind of characterize for us what was remarkable about the investigation?
LEPPARD: Well this was a massive criminal investigation. And probably most remarkable in all of this was the painstaking work gathering forensic evidence from the shattered debris of the Pan Am jumbo jet, which, of course, exploded six miles over the Scottish countryside.
I think it's probably true to say that it's...
NAIDOO: OK, I'm sorry, I'm going to have to interrupt you there.
Richard Blystone, our correspondent at Camp Zeist, has some new information for us. Let's go to him -- Richard.
BLYSTONE: Yes, Anand, we're hearing now that the court has risen and that the sentence will come down in a little over two-and-a-half hours at 2:00 p.m. our time here in the Netherlands. That's six hours ahead of you on the East Coast of the United States. The lawyer for Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi has risen earlier to say that his client is indeed innocent; and if any sentence is handed down, it should start when the accused arrived here in Lockerbie.
They've been nearly two years, both of them, in jail here in Lockerbie. And he's been saying that the any sentence should be said to start at -- on April 5, 1999, when they arrived here.
The guilty verdict now does raise the prospect of claims against the Libyan government. The regime of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya is in the frame, if not in the courtroom. The charge, as it was finally amended, says that the two acted in concert to further the aims of the Libyan intelligence agency.
NAIDOO: OK, Richard, we'll get back to you.
The acting U.S. attorney general is about to make a statement about the verdict. Let's listen in.
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BOB MULLEN, ACTING U.S. DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... offices to be congratulated on the case it presented, the evidence it presented to the Scottish court.
We also owe a debt of gratitude to the Scottish police and the FBI for the thorough investigation that led to this successful prosecution.
The investigation continues to determine who else may have been involved in this act of terrorism, and to bring that individual or those individuals to justice.
QUESTION: Could we have your name, please, sir?
MULLEN: Yes, my name is Bob Mullen, and I'm the acting deputy attorney general.
And after I turn it over to Neil Gallagher, who is representing the FBI, I'd be happy to answer any of your questions.
NEIL GALLAGHER, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS: Good morning, my name is Neil Gallagher. I'm assistant director of the FBI.
On December 21, 1988, I was in charge of the FBI's counterterrorism program. Today, I have a lot of mixed emotions. From one perspective, I feel rather pleased that the work of the Scottish police, of the FBI, has proved to be accurate, that we have identified the person that's responsible for these 270 murders.
At the same time, as Mr. Mullen and I just spent time with the families, you look in the eyes of the families and you realize that these are real people who lost their loved ones. So it's not a sense of satisfaction because there are still 270 innocent people who were murdered on that day.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, one of the family members, a Ms. Cohen, came out and expressed concern that the real mastermind of this -- and she believes it was Gadhafi -- is going to get away with impunity. Can you offer any reassurances to her?
MULLEN: I stood at microphones in 1991 announcing the indictment. I was asked questions about why others weren't included, and the answer then is the answer as it is today: In order to bring an individual into court, you need evidence. We have, over the years, continued to try to accumulate that evidence.
At such point in time when we have evidence to bring into court any other individual who played any other role in this tragedy, we will indict and bring them into court. And I say that, I believe, on behalf of not only the United States prosecutorial authorities, but also the Scottish authorities, with whom we have worked closely over the years.
QUESTION: Is this case closed?
MULLEN: No, the case is not closed. The investigation continues. It has continued since the plane went down and will continue until every individual -- when we can identify who played any role in this tragedy is brought to justice.
QUESTION: Did anybody talk to the president?
MULLEN: Not yet.
Any other questions? Thank you very much.
NAIDOO: That was Bob Mullen, the acting U.S. attorney general, on his reaction to the verdict handed down at Camp Zeist.
Now let's go to Bert Ammerman, one of the family members. He is speaking in New York right now.
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BERT AMMERMAN, BROTHER OF VICTIM: This has been a surreal experience. There's no question today going into the verdict that we wouldn't be here today without the family group, unfortunately, with the right cause, and the support of the media. Any one of those three missing, we would not be here today.
As I went in this morning, there was a great deal of comfort and peace for me. Each family comes to closure at their different levels and different times. For some, it was brining their loved ones back; for some, it was having the memorial at Arlington Cemetery. For me, it always was to find the truth and to have a trial.
When I met with President Bush in April of 1989, I told him that this was a political act, this was not a criminal act. It should never have been in the criminal arena. We told the Clinton administration it should have never been in the criminal arena. They put it there, I believe, because they never thought there would be indictments.
I will be indebted forever to the Scottish police, to the FBI. They surprised everyone and got indictments in '91. And the families kept the pressure on our government and the British government, and we got a trial.
And yet when I came in this morning I didn't really care what the verdict was going to be because I knew that I was able to hear the evidence. And when I went in this morning, I came to my own judgment that these two men were guilty. I wasn't sure what the courts were going to do.
And as typical for us over the 12 years, through good efforts of everyone, we sat there, the judges came out, and the sound didn't work. So we could not hear what the verdicts were. That was frustrating, through no one's fault.
Fhimah was found innocent, Megrahi was found guilty. With Megrahi being found guilty, that is state-sponsored terrorism. That leads to the doorsteps of Gadhafi. Gadhafi is a coward. He is a rogue leader and Libya's a rogue nation.
I don't hold out much hope that our new president or the prime minister of England at this point will show any backbone, because the politicians over 12 years have never shown a backbone. They've never done what is right for citizens. Some in government have, but most of the leaders wanted this to go away. They wanted it to go away because they're more concerned about Middle East peace and oil than they are about their own citizens. And that's what I've learned in 12 years.
We have a new president now, a new administration, but many of the people he's put in charge were in office 12 years ago, so they don't need long to be brought up to speed. And I would hope that President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, will meet immediately and make the following announcement: that Libya will remain a rogue nation, and that Gadhafi is a rogue leader, and they will have terrorist classification until he is out as a leader.
And that should never go away. They should continue to move for the sanctions. This is state-sponsored terrorism. Megrahi was an agent in the Libyan Intelligence secret service. He didn't do this by himself. His guilty plea today leads to the doorsteps of Gadhafi, but I doubt that our political leaders have the substance or the backbone to do what's right, and that's to hold Gadhafi personally accountable for this.
We'll get a lot of rhetoric today. We'll get rhetoric out of the White House: They'll spin it. We'll get rhetoric out of the State Department: They'll spin it. And then they'll hope that this will go away -- and sadly, personally, I tend to think they'll most likely be right.
But for me, I can walk away today, and I am: My political activism is over. I fell very satisfied that I did everything possible that I could do in my brother's name. And the families up there, I think most of them feel the same way. We got some justice today. One individual, hopefully, is going to spend the rest of his life, natural life, behind bars in Scotland.
And that is a tribute to this process: If there's anything that's positive out of this, the system works. This is the first time we've ever had a trial in a neutral country under the jurisdiction of the offended country. That is a major step forward, and I hope that the United Nations continues that and moves in that direction. The Scottish judicial process was outstanding. No one can question the integrity of what took place.
So our loved ones did not die in vain. Today is a day of satisfaction.
True justice, though, I believe, will never be served, because the person that should be brought to justice is the leader of Libya, and I just don't think that's going to happen.
QUESTION: Why do you think they had a problem tying the evidence...
NAIDOO: That was Bert Ammerman, the brother of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, the bombing that took place 12 years ago. He said that the actual judicial process, the Scottish judicial process, was outstanding and that the trial was a tribute to that process. But he did express a lot of bitterness about the fact that what he believed -- who he believed -- to be the ultimate culprit and the man behind the bombing of the plane was actually Moammar Gadhafi, the leader of Libya.
Now, we're going to go to Libya, to take in what Libyan television has been saying about this verdict.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): ...the verdict by unanimous decision, and we heard a while ago that the defense committee will submit an appeal -- to appeal for the decision to make an appeal due within the next 14 days.
We also knew that there are consultations underway between the judges and will continue until -- to the end to lay the final details of this verdict that was issued following the discussions of the Lockerbie case.
As you know -- that this court started its discussions and held 84 sessions from the start, with the total of 506 hours, including 90 hours of closed sessions, and discussed 10,000 pages of information and submitted 235 witnesses.
Then, therefore, this is the verdict that was issued, as I have told you, on Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, that is not guilty, but the defense will submit an appeal within 14 days as of today, a petition to appeal on the verdict. And also there are other details we will update to you soon, dear audience from Zeist camp, in Holland, we greet you, and farewell.
NAIDOO: Libyan television reporter there, on the coverage of the verdict at Camp Zeist.
We are going now back to Richard Blystone, who's at Camp Zeist.
Richard, if you're there: We heard just a few minutes ago...
NAIDOO: Go ahead.
BLYSTONE: Yes, well, let me just say first, and quickly, that Phillip Turner, CNN producer, was in the courtroom when the verdict was handed down.
Phil, first of all, the reactions of the accused, as they heard in the case of Megrahi, guilty, in the case of Fahima, not guilty.
PHILLIP TURNER, CNN PRODUCER: Megrahi looked straight ahead when Lord Sutherland gave the verdict. It was unanimous verdict. He looked straight ahead, they showed no emotion, and then there was some pause.
And then it was the verdict on Fahima. Fahima showed no reaction.
The reaction was mainly from the public galleries, where there were over 200 people seated. Many of them were journalists, but there was a delegation from Libya that was sitting directly behind the two accused. And when the verdicts went out, there was a palpable intake of breath. People couldn't believe it. There was a gasp.
BLYSTONE: What about the relatives of the victims?
TURNER: The relatives of the victims were hard to see from my vantage point. I couldn't see the usual family members there. I don't know if they were in another part of the courtroom. There seemed to be a delegation of Libyans directly behind the defendants. And when the defendants entered the courtroom, one raised his arm in -- either in friendship or acknowledgment or in solidarity with one of the two accused.
BLYSTONE: Now, this was an emotional moment for many of the families of the accused, bereaved, Dr. Jim Swier (ph), among them, the British doctor whose daughter Flora (ph) died. Anything from him?
TURNER: Yes, there was a long pause when the clerk of the court recorded the verdicts, and there was five minutes of silence, and just afterwards, about 15 minutes into the procedures, it appears that Dr. Swier collapsed. There was a -- efforts were being made to get him out of the gallery area and he collapsed. He's led the campaign for the British families ever since the incident, and it must have just been overwhelming for him to receive this information.
BLYSTONE: OK, thanks Phil Turner, CNN producer.
The British families are supposed to make a brief statement very shortly and after that, tomorrow afternoon, in London, they make a fuller statement. They're expected to demand from the British government a full...
NAIDOO: Our apologies -- we've lost Richard Blystone there.
So let's go to David Leppard, a journalist in London who's been covering the crash and investigation.
Mr. Leppard, we heard the -- Bob Mullen, the acting U.S. attorney general, as well as Neil Gallagher of the FBI say that this case is not closed, that the United States will still go after those people who they believe are also responsible for this. What is your reaction to that?
LEPPARD: Well, I'm surprised to see that the American law enforcement authorities are saying the investigation continues. I wasn't aware of that. But if it is continuing, as they say, I think it's going to focus on a meeting which took place at the headquarters of the Libyan intelligence services in Tripoli several weeks before the bombing was carried out in December of 1988.
The issue really is who was at this meeting, which according to Intelligent sources that I've spoken to, was actually the meeting which decided to carry out the bombing of Pan Am 103. I think we can fairly safely say that the meeting was probably chaired by the then head of Libyan Intelligence, who's a man called Abdula Alsanooci (ph), and a number of other people, senior officers of the Libyan intelligence services, were also present.
Now, these people, if the prosecution case is correct -- which clearly it is, because it's been vindicated today -- were instrumental in organizing the guilty man, Al-Megrahi -- Al-Megrahi -- to actually carry out the bombing attack in Malta. And it's to identify these individuals and to establish the evidence which links those individuals and what they said at that meeting and in other meetings to the actual conspiracy, which must form the focus of this criminal investigation, which apparently continues today.
NAIDOO: OK, David Leppard, let me leave you there for just a moment to go up to Lockerbie, in Scotland, where Walter Rodgers has some reaction there.
Walter, what have you been hearing?
RODGERS: Hello, Anand.
Well the news of the verdict is now just slowly trickling through the townspeople here in Lockerbie. Lockerbie is a marketing town of about 4,000 people.
One of the women who came into town to do her marketing today is Peggy Kyle (ph) -- lives just outside Lockerbie.
Mrs. Kyle, you know the verdict: one innocent, one guilty. What's your reaction?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I can't believe it. I really can't. I think if one is guilty, then obviously the other one is. And I think it's a disaster. I really do. I mean I think the people that were involved must have been looking for a guilty verdict. Hopefully -- I think it's going to the civil courts now.
RODGERS: Do you consider justice was done?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
RODGERS: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I think both of them should have been found guilty. I can't understand the verdict, one innocent and one guilty. If they couldn't have found them both guilty or both innocent, why did they not go for a not proven case?
RODGERS: That's a quirk of Scottish law the not proven.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is.
RODGERS: When I first told you of the verdict, you said great. What did you mean?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I'm glad that it was out and people knew what the verdict was. We had just missed it. I think -- I don't think people will be happy with it.
RODGERS: Do you think -- do you think this town will ever forget what happened here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, no, no, never, never. The scars are still about.
RODGERS: Where -- what do you see, how do you feel? What do people say when the news media's not in town?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think they were all looking for a guilty verdict. I think they all felt they should have been found guilty. I mean, although it took place in other parts of the world, in Germany and in Malta...
RODGERS: What do you remember of that night?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That night is fixed very well in my mind. We had gone on holiday to south of England for Christmas, and I was sitting watching television, and suddenly the news broke. And I just sat there. I just couldn't believe it. And of course, we phoned home directly to see what had happened, and we were told, you know, that everything was absolute chaos.
RODGERS: But you're glad it's over now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, yes, yes, it's been going on so long. And it's strange, every time you come into town, you usually meet somebody from America or one of the relatives that has come to see the memorial at the Christhill Cemetery (ph), and you just think of how people are always going to be coming here, people that have lost their children. It was so sad -- so many young lives that were involved, all those students...
RODGERS: Peggy Kyle, thanks very much. Thank you for talking to us.
We've been talking with one of the ladies who lives in the area of Lockerbie. She was here that night more than 12 years ago. When we asked her about the verdict, she said she thought - she would have preferred to see both proven guilty. She did not think justice was done.
Nonetheless, in about 45 minutes from now, some of the officials in the town of Lockerbie will be holding a news conference to render their judgments on the verdict in the Town Hall behind me - Anand.
NAIDOO: OK, Walter, thank you.
And now some of the family members have been -- of the victims -- have been gathering in Washington, D.C., here in the United States, and they're now talking about their reaction to the verdict. Let's listen to some of the comments that they're making.
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BOB MONETTI, FATHER OF VICTIM: ... go into civil suit and prove Gadhafi ordered this damn thing.
QUESTION: And how hard will it be to prove...
MONETTI: I think it'll be a lot easier to prove in U.S. civil court than it was in Scottish criminal court. Scottish criminal court's rules are awful. They're very defendant favorable, and the fact that Megrahi was convicted is fantastic.
I'm from Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
QUESTION: Could you spell your last name?
MONETTI: Yes -- he was 20. And I have a little brochure which explains dates and times and all of that kind of stuff if anybody wants one.
QUESTION: What did Rick (ph) want to do?
MONETTI: If Rick didn't want to be a reporter, I wouldn't be here. He was at -- he was at Syracuse's Newhouse School -- and he loved -- he was a dual major: journalism and political science. So he would have been telling you guys what they asked me.
This certainly helps. It's a lot nicer than if they were found not guilty. It's not going to change anything in our house. The kids not coming home anymore. But it is nicer that these guys were convicted. It makes it easier to carry this fight against Libya.
We've already talked to the State Department and the Justice Department that we need their cooperation to convict Libya of this thing.
NAIDOO: That was Rick Monetti, the father of -- OK, that was Bob Monetti, the father of Rick Monetti, who was 20 at the time when he was killed in the Lockerbie bombing.
Now let's go back to Richard Blystone who's at Camp Zeist -- Richard.
BLYSTONE: Anand, we have with us again Clare Connelly of the Glasgow University Lockerbie briefing unit, who's been following every twist and turn of this trial for the last nine months.
Clare, a guilty verdict on Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi shows that the prosecution was able to put over beyond reasonable doubt a circumstantial case?
CLARE CONNELLY, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: That's correct. And certainly, the verdict comes as no surprise. There was clearly much more evidence that set readily to prosecute. Therefore, his conviction doesn't come as a surprise.
Also the acquittal of the second accused when there was so little evidence is also not a surprise today.
BLYSTONE: But this was a gossamer web of circumstance.
But that is present in Scottish law for a case to be based on circumstantial evidence and for a verdict of guilty to be determined. And I think that this reflects the complexity of the child what it's basted (ph) in. And it's almost like a spider's web with the evidence being spun out.
But it was enough for the judges. They had all of the evidence and they can convince beyond reasonable doubt.
BLYSTONE: But now that we can talk about this, because we've been limited to Scottish law in giving value judgments, what was convincing to you and presumably, then, to the judges in the prosecution's case?
CONNELLY: Well I think we're going to the base of an idea of what was convincing to the judges when they issued their written judgment.
But in terms of what was convincing to me would be the evidence deleting the MST facting (ph) timer between the producer's meddle and medics (ph) of the supply to Libya, and also in particular, the identification by the shopkeeper in Malta, of the first accused, as the person who purchased the clothes that were later found in the suitcase with the bomb. BLYSTONE: And now the defense tore into both of those things, saying that the identification was not reliable, and implying that the fragment of the circuit board in the clothing, there was a lapse in the record of possession of that, so that the evidence could have been doctored.
CONNELLY: I mean quite clearly, yes, the defense did a very good job of vigorously cross-examining all witnesses with any significance. But obviously that cross-examination hasn't vented the prosecution case to such an extent that the judges are felt boned (ph) to acquit the accused.
BLYSTONE: Now under Scottish law, as I understand it, a right of appeal is not automatic. What do you expect in that way?
CONNELLY: Well, as you see, a right of appeal is not automatic, so what would happen to law (ph) is if the first accused wishes to appeal against this verdict, he has two weeks within which to lodge a notice of intention to appeal, then a further six weeks to gather together the documents, the grounds for that appeal. And a judge then looks at those papers and decides whether an appeal should be had. If an appeal is granted, it goes ahead, if not, the accused can then have those papers reviewed again by a panel of three judges.
BLYSTONE: Mitigation: Are you expecting anything along those lines, and in any case, what is possible?
CONNELLY: Well, Bill Taylor (ph) said today that because his client maintained that he was not guilty, that, therefore, there would be no plea in litigation. And the judges said he may wish to address them on further matters, after he has seen the written judgment.
So, the court has now adjourned until two o'clock. When it returns at two o'clock, the judges will be indicating, choose the minimum period of time that Al-Megrahi must stay before he can apply for parole.
He's receiving a month (ph) to life sentence because he's been convicted of murder. They've also set a minimum period. He would then be open to him (ph) to apply for parole, but that is not automatic he would be granted parole at that point.
BLYSTONE: Clare Connelly, the Scottish -- the University of Glasgow briefing unit, thanks very much for being with us -- Anand.
NAIDOO: Richard, we heard some of the family members here in the United States talk of civil action against the Libyans who are being accused. Is there provision made for that in this process?
BLYSTONE: Provision for civil action against the accused, is there any opening for that?
CONNELLY: Certainly, a civil case could now be heard and could be proceeded. I now (ph) understand the American families. I might not intend to do that, but I hope an action's already been started. That's open, too. And I understand that the action would be against both the Libyan government and the two accused.
And as you -- as you probably know, the British families that are intending in holding a press conference tomorrow. And it would appear that the -- and they're more than inflicting (ph) the public inquiry taking place for questions that haven't been answered in the trial could be addressed.
BLYSTONE: Anand, we've just heard on CNN that, you know, a -- this civil action is different from our criminal one, anywhere in the world. We have the O.J. Simpson trial as an example.
Tell us a little bit, in general, about the rules of evidence and so on in the civil action against those in the criminal trial.
CONNELLY: Well, I think the most important thing is that the decision in a civil action is made on the -- for the -0 on the balance of probability, the evidence supports the case that's being presented by the pursuer. That differs from a criminal case, where it has to be belief beyond reasonable doubt. So, clearly, a lower standard of proof that applies in a civil action.
Also in the U.S., as in the case in Scotland, it is often to individuals -- interested parties to lead (ph) an action for civil damages and expect (ph) the loss of our loved one, even if the person who's been tried for the crime of murdering that person hasn't quite been acquitted.
BLYSTONE: Now, let's bring that up. The Libyan regime was not in court, but it was not out of sight either. It was in the charge.
CONNELLY: Well, that's right, exactly. It was -- it was -- Al- Megrahi was described as someone who is part of the Libyan Intelligence Services. I mean, he was acting to further the request desired of the Libyan Intelligence Services.
BLYSTONE: Clare Connelly, thanks very much.
Well, it's clear, Anand, we have not heard the last of Lockerbie.
NAIDOO: OK, Richard, let's leave you there for a moment to go to New York.
Frank Buckley has been listening to some of the reaction from some of the family members there -- Frank.
BUCKLEY: Well, family members are gathered in a room here at the Jacob Javitz Federal Building, and were able to watch, at least, as the verdict was being announced.
They tell us that they weren't able to hear, so there was a moment of tension inside the room. Then, when they heard the verdict of guilty, there was cheering inside the room.
There were at least two dozen family members of victims in the room. We don't know the exact number, but they're inside. They were happy about the one guilty verdict. But they also have said, at least to the two people we've spoken with, have said that they believe that this was a case of state- sponsored terrorism. They're hoping that the U.S. government and the British government will continue to pursue this case.
U.S. officials today have said that, in fact, this case is not over, and that the investigation does continue. That comes as good news, indeed, to the family members of the victims, who believe that this case goes beyond the two men who were charged in this crime.
NAIDOO: OK, thank you, Frank.
Now, let's go back to David Leppard, who's in London. He's a journalist for the "Sunday Times" there, who's covered this investigation very closely.
Mr. Leppard, the -- we heard a lot of dissatisfaction on the part of some relatives, who say that the Scottish court there, one family member describing it as being disposed favorably towards the accused. Do you believe that is that case?
LEPPARD: Well, I think self-evidently, it's not the case.
We're talking about the criminal Scottish court. And clearly, the evidence has been accepted as substantially incriminating the defendants. The evidence was accepted as being sufficiently strong, even though it was mainly circumstantial. And that's quite a remarkable achievement for the prosecution in this case.
I think the level of proof is, obviously, higher in a criminal case. And if there is civil action to take place, it should be a lot easier now for the relatives to establish that the Libyan government -- the Libyan Intelligence Services were the masterminds -- the key figure behind Megrahi's action in planting this bomb.
NAIDOO: Well, we've heard about civil action as far as the judicial process is concerned. We've also heard from the FBI and from the attorney general's office in the United States, saying that this case is not closed. What do you see happen now?
LEPPARD: Well, I think the British authorities will have to consider whether they really want to continue a criminal investigation.
I can't see how any criminal investigation can possibly establish sufficient, hard evidence to be put before another court.
And the reason I'm saying that is because all of the hard evidence relates to a conspiracy in Tripoli meetings, conversations, orders within the hierarchy of the Libyan Intelligence Service.
Some of these orders, some of the discussion there may be in minutes, may be in memoranda. But I imagine that most of the discussion was made in a way that couldn't possibly be used subsequently against Libyan Intelligence. And certainly it would have been destroyed by now. So, all you've really got is the prospects. And we did in this case have one inside -- insider from Libyan Intelligence giving evidence as a so-called "super grass," incriminating certainly the first defendant and suggesting that the second defendant was also guilty, although he was subsequently acquitted.
So it's going to be a question of intelligence work here, cultivating the inside informants within the Libyan Intelligence hierarchy, who can actually come forward and give evidence in a court of law. And I frankly believe that that is going to be almost impossible.
NAIDOO: We also heard from some of the family members, some of them believing that the man ultimately responsible for this bombing, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, the leader of Libya, is going to get away with this.
Do you think that any government, either the British government or the American government, can actually put any more sanctions on -- political sanctions or economic sanctions, on the Libyan leader in the time -- in the months ahead?
LEPPARD: Well, I think it's absolutely possible. I mean, the logic of this is that Megrahi's been indicted. Megrahi was -- and has been convicted -- was the head of the Libyan Intelligence Service in Malta, therefore, acting as an instrument of the Libyan government.
The evidence is clear that Libya was involved. Gadhafi is in charge in Libya, very close links to the head of his own Intelligence Services. Not clear exactly what he said about this bomb plot, whether he was personally involved in any detail.
There are already sanctions outstanding against the Libyan government. But UN sanctions were lifted as part of a deal to get these two defendants over to the court.
So I think there's going to be a lot of conversation, a lot of discussion, in London and in Washington today, about what sort of action the Western governments involved here, who represent the victims in this case, can take against Libya. And we'll just have to wait and see.
NAIDOO: OK, thank you, David Leppard, for joining us from London.
So the verdict there, a unanimous verdict, three Scottish judges finding Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi guilty of the crime. The three judges also unanimously found not guilty Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah.
As we've said, it's been 12 years since Flight 103 blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. And it's been a difficult and complex path to this day of the ruling.
To give you some perspective now on the history of the bombing, Relitza Vasilova has this report.
RELITZA VASILOVA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The devastation in the small Scottish town after Pan Am Flight 103, on its way from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie on December 21st, 1988.
In an instant, the 259 people aboard the plane were killed, and falling debris killed 11 more on the ground.
But it will take almost 12 years before the families of those who died would see anyone brought to trial.
First, the enormous complexity of the investigation, then Libya's refusal to hand over suspects, would get in the way. Investigators combed more than 2,000 square kilometers, partly on hands and knees, searching for clues.
Three years after the crash, in 1991, Scottish and U.S. authorities indicted two Libyans, Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, for murder and conspiracy to murder.
According to the indictment, the two suspects were Libyan intelligence agents working undercover at Malta's Luqa Airport. They were accused of loading a suitcase with plastic explosives onto a plane bound for Frankfurt, where the luggage was transferred to the Pan Am airliner.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi refused to hand them over. A seven-year struggle to get the two suspects to trial was only just beginning.
In 1992, in an effort to pressure Libya to surrender the suspects, the U.N. imposed travel and arms sanctions.
The next year, Libyan lawyers said the suspects say they're willing to stand trial in Switzerland. The U.S. and Great Britain refused.
Five years into the sanctions, in 1997, Libya offered to have the suspects tried in a neutral venue. The U.S. and Britain rejected that offer, insisting the two face trial on their soil.
But a year later, the two changed their minds; trial in a neutral site, the Netherlands, but under Scottish law, sentences, if any, served in Scotland.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and then-South African President, Nelson Mandela helped negotiate the deal. Some of the victims' relatives voiced the fear that the price of Mr. Gadhafi's approval was a secret promise, that the investigation would not go up the Libyan chain of command. The U.N. denies that any such deal was made.
In 1998, Libya formally agreed to the trial. And in April 1999, Al-Megrahi and Fhimah arrived under tight security at a former U.S. military base in the Netherlands, declared Scottish territory for the duration of the trial.
Soon after they were handed over, the U.N. suspended its sanctions against Libya. Many European countries were eager to start restoring links with oil-rich Libya. Britain restored full diplomatic ties. Even Washington suspended its sanctions against Libya. Then the proceedings began in May 2000.
Under tight security, the two suspects appeared before three Scottish judges for a trial that would last more than eight months. Fhimah and Al-Megrahi were prosecuted on charges of murder, conspiracy to murder, and airline safety violations.
In a surprise move during its summation, the prosecution dropped the lesser charges against them, and pressed for conviction on the charge most serious and difficult to prove: murder.
One question left unanswered: Who ordered the bombing and why?
Relitza Vasilova, CNN.
NAIDOO: David Leppard, the British journalist who has covered the crash and investigation of the Lockerbie disaster -- we'll be talking to him at the top of the hour in World News.
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