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Jailed Libyan Wins Right to Appeal Lockerbie Conviction


A jailed Libyan intelligence officer has won the right to appeal his conviction in the downing of an American airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988. A judicial review panel now says he may have been wrongly convicted, as VOA's Sonja Pace reports from London.

After a three-year inquiry, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission has issued its findings. It says Abdelbaset al Megrahi may have been wrongly convicted for the downing of Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988.

A bomb was smuggled aboard the New York-bound plane - it blew up over Lockerbie, killing all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground.

Megrahi was convicted in a special trial set in the Netherlands and sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years in jail. A co-defendant, Lamin Khalifa Fhima, was acquitted.

Megrahi has always maintained his innocence and some of the family members of those who perished in the bombing believed him.

Jim Swire lost his daughter on that flight.

"We cannot but be delighted that the Scottish justice has taken a decision to have another look at what this evidence amounts to, and we'll await their findings with great interest," he said.

Megrahi's lawyers maintained that the Libyan was framed. They said Iran, Syria and a Palestinian nationalist group, the PFLP-GC (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command), were responsible for downing the plane in retaliation for an Iranian passenger jet accidentally shot down by an American missile in July of 1988.

Jane Berkley, who lost a son in the Lockerbie bombing said she and other families hope to finally learn the truth through the appeals process.

"I know that we all feel keenly that it is bad enough for us to have lost our children, our spouses, our siblings or our friends without feeling that for some reason the full facts about this terrible disaster have been kept from us," she said.

But not all families agree. Some feel that Megrahi should not have been granted the right to an appeal.

In a statement issued by his lawyers, Megrahi welcomed the review commission's findings and expressed confidence that his innocence would be proved in the appeals process.

The Libyan government has accepted responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, although the government maintains that does not imply guilt. Libya also agreed to pay compensation to the victims' families. The move prompted the United Nations to lift sanctions against Tripoli.