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Lockerbie Victims' Families Seek Answers

Lockerbie Victims' Families Seek Answers

Lockerbie Victims' Families Seek Answers

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In 1988, an American airliner flying from London to New York exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. A Libyan man was the only person convicted of involvement, and he was released in late August by Scottish authorities because he is suffering from cancer. Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi dropped his appeal before he was released, and some thought that might be the end of the 21-year Lockerbie saga. Some victims' relatives believe there are still unanswered questions and are seeking legal avenues to raise them.

The only man convicted in the Lockerbie bombing arrived in Libya to a jubilant welcome that upset families of those who killed in 1988. Scottish authories freed Abdelbaset Ali Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds, because he has terminal cancer. Many families are angry because Megrahi served only eight and a half years of his 27-year sentence, others because they hoped he would be proven innocent.

Reverend John Mosey's 19-year-old daughter Helga was killed. He didn't object to Megrahi's release, but is upset because the Libyan decided to abandon the appeal of his conviction.

"I'm pleased he's gone home because my opinion is colored by my feeling that he was almost certainly not guilty, but the important thing was that he dropped his appeal and that is [the] great tragedy in this," Mosey said.

Mosey and some other relatives had hoped the legal appeal would bring to light new evidence. The 1988 attack on Pan Am flight 103 killed all on board and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. No one credible claimed responsibility. A 1991 British accident Investigation established the cause as a bomb hidden in luggage. That same year a criminal investigation led to the indictment both in the US and Scotland of two Libyans. Some families of the dead say there still hasn't been a full investigation.

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"We've never stopped asking the questions, we've never been given a forum to ask the proper questions and this has given it a fresh impetus. But you see it's not about Megrahi. It's about 270 innocent people who were blown out of the sky six miles above the Scottish borders, that's what it is about," he said.

The Libyans went to trial a decade after the indictment in a Scottish Court in the Netherlands. Only Megrahi was found guilty. The British prime minister said justice had been done, and Libya eventually paid $2.1 billion in compensation to victims' families.

But some of the relatives say the trial was unsatisfactory. Among them is Dr. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing. Swire wants to know more about an alleged break-in in the baggage area of London's Heathrow airport hours before Pan Am 103 took off. It wasn't addressed in the trial.

"I myself took a copy of the Lockerbie bomb on board a British Airways plane at that same airport in 1989 and wasn't stopped from doing so and flew to America with it. It seemed to us very obvious that there were major major flaws in security at that airport," Swire said.

Every year families on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean commemorate their loved ones on the anniversary of the bombing. Some blame Libya, others hope they will be able to find answers through their own legal appeal, possibly through the United Nations, a British government public inquiry or a legal case in the European Court of Human Rights.

"It's very easy to lose sight of the foundations of why we've been fighting for 20-odd years. All we want to know is who murdered our family members and why they were not prevented from doing so and it's that - why they were not prevented from doing so - that is causing a great deal of difficulty for us now because of what we do know which suggests that a causation of this was probably very different from what's been presented to the world," Swire said.

Libyan authorities allowed a television camera into the hospital to show that Megrahi was clearly very ill, and unwilling or unable to answer questions.

His release put the Lockerbie bombing firmly back in the public eye. Victim's families hope their quest to learn more about the attack will not die with him.