Libya, turning point in Lockerbie investigations
The White House will announce shortly to have reach a sensational turning point in one of the most controversial investigations for terrorism in history. According to rumors leaked by the American press, the United States is about to indict a Libyan bomber for the 1988 attack that detonated a Pan-Am jumbo jet flying over the Scottish city of Lockerbie, causing the death of all 270 passengers, almost all-American citizen. The attack is the deadliest terrorist episode in the United Kingdom.
The new charges will demand the extradition of Abu Agila Mohammed Masud, who should be processed in the US for his crime. The suspected terrorist is currently in prison in Libya, where he has been arrested for other crimes. But nobody knows where he exactly is. The civil war that has been tearing the North African country for over ten years could complicate his eventual surrender to the American authorities.
Following a three-year joint investigation, Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), issued arrest warrants for two Libyan nationals in November 1991. Eight years later, the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi handed over the two men for trial at Camp Zeist, Netherlands, after protracted negotiations and UN sanctions. After more than a decade of inquiry, the British judicial investigation into the Lockerbie incident led to the indictment of only one accused, another Libyan citizen: Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, sentenced to twenty-seven years in prison in 2001.
After always pleading innocent, he was released in 2009 for humanitarian reasons as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Returning to Libya, he died in 2012. A Scottish court is considering a posthumous appeal by his family against the verdict that found him guilty.In 2003, Gaddafi accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie attack and compensate the families of the victims, although he maintained that he had never given the order for the bombing. Acceptance of responsibility was part of a series of requirements laid out by a UN resolution for sanctions against Libya to be lifted. Libya said it had to accept responsibility due to Megrahi’s status as a government member of staff.
But in the meantime, an American investigation has gone ahead in parallel. Yesterday the Wall Street Journal unveiled that, in the next few days, the indictment and extradition request for Masud will be officialised. The newspaper cited sources from the US Justice Department. Also, the New York Times claims that Masud was a bombmaker for Libyan Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi. Attorney General, William Barr, will announce the new charges. Last week Barr resigned after the disagreements with Donald Trump over the election result that saw Joe Biden’s victory and the decision of the Supreme Court to confirm it as valid.
William Barr will remain in office until the end of the year. He was serving as Attorney General at the time of Megrahi’s indictment, as a member of George Bush Sr.’s administration. He will probably reopen the judicial proceedings against one of the most serious terrorist attacks of all time. “We won’t stop until we find those responsible,” he said at the time, adding that the US judiciary has no more important priority.