Lockerbie bomber appeal set to begin at Scotland's High Court

FILE PHOTO: A rose lies on the base of the main headstone in the Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial garden in Lockerbie, Scotland May 20, 2012. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a PanAm flight over Lockerbie, died of cancer on Sunday aged 60, leaving many questions on the attack and its aftermath unanswered. REUTERS/David Moir (BRITAIN – Tags: DISASTER TRANSPORT CRIME LAW OBITUARY)

LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland’s High Court will begin hearing an appeal on Tuesday against the conviction of a Libyan man found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing, the deadliest militant attack in British history.

Pam Am Flight 103 was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 en route from London to New York, an attack that killed 270 people, mostly Americans on their way home for Christmas.

In 2001, Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was jailed for life after being found guilty of the murder of 243 passengers, 16 crew and 11 residents of Lockerbie who were killed in the attack. He is the only person to be convicted over the bombing.

Megrahi, who denied involvement, died in Libya in 2012 after being released three years earlier by Scotland’s government on compassionate grounds following a diagnosis of terminal cancer.

In March, an independent Scottish review body ruled his family could launch an appeal after concluding there might have been a miscarriage of justice.

“Overturning of the verdict for the Megrahi family and many of the families of British victims also supporting the appeal, would vindicate their belief that the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom stand accused of having lived a monumental lie for 31 years,” the family’s lawyer Aamer Anwar said in a statement.

Five judges will hear the appeal including the head of Scotland’s judiciary, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland.

Megrahi first appealed in 2002 but this was refused by Scotland’s High Court. A second appeal was abandoned in 2009 just before his return to Libya.

In 2003, then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi accepted his country’s responsibility for the bombing and paid compensation to the victims’ families, but did not admit personally ordering the attack. However, Megrahi’s family and some relatives of the Scottish victims have always doubted his guilt.

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