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Lockerbie Appeal Starts - 2002-02-13

An appeals court in the Netherlands has begun hearing evidence that could overturn the conviction of a Libyan man blamed for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Scotland. The crash killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

New witnesses have been summoned to give evidence in the Lockerbie case. Raymond Manly, a security guard at London's Heathrow Airport, was called to the stand to repeat his story that he found signs of a break-in at the baggage area before the New York-bound airliner took off in 1988.

The defense last week told the appellate court that Mr. Manly's evidence would support defense claims that the bomb was more likely to have been loaded on the plane in London, than in Malta.

Mr. Manly's boss at Heathrow Airport at the time was also called to verify that Mr. Manly had reported the break-in. Airport security officials were not called to testify in the original trial and the defense says it did not have knowledge of this evidence until after the verdict was delivered last year.

Former Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi was convicted of putting a suitcase containing a bomb into the baggage system at Malta airport, where it was transferred onto Pan Am Flight 103. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The original case was largely based on key testimony of a Maltese shopkeeper that Al-Megrahi purchased clothing at his store, clothing that police later identified as material used to pad the bomb inside the suitcase. The defense is seeking to attack the credibility of the witness and break the linkage between evidence offered by the prosecution.

The prosecution says the overwhelming circumstantial evidence against Al-Megrahi remains valid and the court should uphold his conviction.

A special Scottish appeals court is hearing the case at a former military base called Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.