Lord Advocate welcomes Lockerbie bombing arrest

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Scotland’s top law officer has welcomed the arrest of a man suspected of the Lockerbie bombing.

US officials said on Sunday that Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi had been detained on suspicion of building the bomb which downed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, killing 270 people, in December 1988.

In an unusual statement, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC welcomed the news, but added that the investigation would continue and she would be meeting with US officials next week.

The steps taken by the US justice authorities are significant and progress towards a legal breakthrough is welcomed by Scottish prosecutors and police,” she said.

“The tragic events of December 1988 have bound Scotland and the US together in deep loss and steadfast determination that all those who committed this atrocity should be brought before a court.”

She added: “For more than 20 years the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service has maintained a case team working on this investigation, bringing together a range of prosecutorial expertise in counter-terrorism, major crime investigations, forensic analysis, international co-operation and mutual legal assistance.

“The recent developments demonstrate that there can be no time limits placed on the pursuit of justice.”

Ms Bain said officials in Scotland and the US will continue to investigate the case, “with the sole aim of bringing those who acted along with (Abdelbaset) Al Megrahi to justice”.

Scotland’s highest ranked police officer also said the force would continue to its investigation into the bombing.

“Since 1988, policing in Scotland has been committed to carrying out the largest terrorist and murder investigation ever undertaken in this country,” said Chief Constable Sir Iain Livingstone, who also paid tribute to the families of the victims.

“We have worked tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice. Police Scotland will continue to work closely on this investigation, under the direction of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, with our American law enforcement colleagues.”

Meanwhile, Scotland’s former justice secretary said Mas’ud was “always high on the list” of suspects.

Jim Swire
Dr Jim Swire said he wants the trial to take place in a UN-appointed court rather than in the US or Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Speaking to the BBC, Kenny MacAskill, who as justice secretary opted to release Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009 after he was convicted of the bombing, said Mas’ud was always a person of interest in the investigation.

“Mas’ud’s involvement has always been suspected, he was always high on the list and was one of the original suspects wanted by the authorities at the outset,” he told Good Morning Scotland on Monday.

“The only surprise is that he’s now been apprehended, they’ve been looking for him for a while, Gaddafi would never release him. When Gaddafi was toppled those warlord factions might have hated each other but they equally both hated the USA so they were never prepared to release him, so how the USA have managed to spring him I don’t know.”

In 2020, Mas’ud was charged by the US Attorney General William Barr with being the third person involved in the terrorist attack.

At the time, he was said to be in Libyan custody and Mr Barr said US authorities would work “arm in arm” with their Scottish counterparts.

Mr Barr said: “Let there be no mistake, no amount of time or distance will stop the US and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case.”

Meanwhile, Dr Jim Swire told the same programme that the US or Scotland should not be tasked with trying Mas’ud, stating he would like to see a UN court set up.

“There are so many loose ends that hang from this dreadful case, largely emanating form America, that I think we should remember what Mandela said to the world and to us then and seek a court that is free of being beholden to any nation directly involved in the atrocity itself.”

He added: “I think it should not take place in America. I think now, in view of what we now know about how Scotland handled the case, it should not take place in Scotland.

“The obvious way forward it seems to me is to resort to the United Nations and invite them to provide a court with appropriate facilities to try this man and hopefully to review all the evidence that was used against the unfortunate Megrahi.”

Any trial, Dr Swire added, should also re-assess evidence in the case against al-Megrahi, who was released in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and died in Libya in 2012.

A second suspect, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, stood trial with al-Megrahi but was acquitted.

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