Lockerbie slip-up 'gives suspects basis for appeal'

CIA operatives testify at Lockerbie trial

Lockerbie slip-up 'gives suspects basis for appeal'

BY SHIRLEY ENGLISH © 2000 London Times June 10, 2000

THE two men accused of the Lockerbie bombing may have grounds for appeal if they are convicted, after complaining that they were unable to understand proceedings.

Lawyers for the defence complained yesterday that Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima were receiving witness statements with chunks of evidence missing. They said that the men were entitled to a verbatim account of the statements rather than an "interpretation". The development was described as "very serious" by legal experts who said it was likely to provide the defence with grounds for appeal if the Libyans are eventually found guilty.

One lawyer said last night that under the Human Rights Act a defendant had an absolute right to be able to understand court proceedings and that any breach could lead to a ruling that they had been denied a fair trial.

After the complaint by lawyers for the two men, the judges demanded an improvement in translation facilities. For five weeks the pair have been listening through headphones to an Arabic translation of the trial which is being held at a Scottish court at Camp Zeist in The Netherlands.

Richard Keen, defence counsel, told the judges: "An accused is entitled to understand the evidence that is being provided by the Crown in a case against him. Interpretation has to be practical and effective. The interpretation here seems to have been far from that." The three judges hearing the trial ordered that the defendants be given verbatim Arabic transcripts of proceedings since the start of the trial.

CIA operatives testify at Lockerbie trial  AP

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands --  Two CIA agents, their identities protected by elaborate
security measures, described bomb-making paraphernalia seized in West Africa that
could tie two Libyan defendants to the 1988 airliner explosion over Lockerbie,

It was the first time covert operatives have testified in the mass-murder trial of two suspected Libyan intelligence agents accused of planting a bomb that killed 270
people on Pan Am Flight 103 and on the ground in Lockerbie.

The trial, which began May 3, is focusing on a circuit-board fragment recovered from
the Dec. 21, 1988, explosion. Prosecutors believe it was part of an electronic timer
that detonated the plastic explosives in the cargo hold of the New York-bound jet.

Defendants Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah deny any role in the bombing, accusing Palestinian groups.

The U.S. witnesses said they inspected weapons confiscated from two unidentified
men at Dakar airport in Senegal on Feb. 20, 1988 -- 10 months before the Lockerbie

The unidentified men were later released.

The agents described electronic timers among the confiscated weapons.

Defence lawyers suggested, however, U.S. authorities attempted to frame the defendants.