Highlights on Pan Am Flight 103


Here’s a look at the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

December 21, 1988 – Pan Am Flight 103 exploded 31,000ft over Lockerbie, Scotland 38 minutes after takeoff from London.

Two hundred and fifty-nine people aboard the Boeing 747 bound for New York were killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

Subsequently, American and British investigators found fragments of a circuit board and timer, and concluded that a bomb, not a mechanical failure, had caused the explosion.

Libyans Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifah Fhimah were tried for the bombing. Al Megrahi was found guilty, while Fhimah was found not guilty.

The suspects were tried in a Scottish court at Camp Zeist, a former US airbase 20 miles south of the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. The Dutch declared 30 acres of Scotland’s 100-acre base territory so the trial could be held in a neutral country as al Megrahi, Fhimah and Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had wanted. There was no jury; three Scottish judges presided, with a fourth as reserve.

Authorities said al Megrahi and Fhimah made the bomb from Semtex plastic explosives, concealed it inside a Toshiba cassette recorder, hid the recorder in a Samsonite suitcase and slipped the suitcase on board a plane. an Air Malta flight bound for Malta in Frankfurt, Germany. The unaccompanied bag was reportedly transferred to a Pan Am flight to London and then to Flight 103.

The CIA and FBI said the suspects, employed by Libyan Arab Airlines in Malta, were also Libyan intelligence agents. The less serious charges of conspiracy to murder and breach of the UK Air Safety Act 1982 were dropped.

For three years, investigators from the United States, Britain, Germany and other countries interviewed more than 15,000 people in more than 30 countries and collected thousands of pieces of evidence.

The death penalty is not permitted under Scottish law. There is no prescribed sentence for a conviction of conspiracy to kill. Any sanction is at the discretion of the court. Life imprisonment is the prescribed penalty for murder or breach of the Air Safety Act 1982. Any prison time would be served in Scotland.

December 21, 1988 – Pan Am Flight 103 explodes 31,000ft over Lockerbie, Scotland, 38 minutes after takeoff from London. All 259 people aboard the Boeing 747 bound for New York are killed, along with 11 people on the ground.

July 1990 – The Air Investigation Branch of the British Civil Aviation Authority officially reports that an explosive device caused the crash of Pan Am Flight 103.

November 13, 1991 – US and UK investigators are charging Libyans al Megrahi and Fhimah with 270 counts of murder, conspiracy to murder and breaching the UK Aviation Security Act 1982. The men are accused of being Libyan intelligence agents.

April 15, 1992 – The United Nations Security Council imposes sanctions on air travel and arms sales to Libya, following Libya’s refusal to hand over suspects for trial in a Scottish court.

March 1994 – Libya said it would consider a proposal to try the suspects at a neutral site with a panel of international judges. Britain and the United States reject the plan, insisting that the couple be tried in a British or American court.

August 24, 1998 – Britain and the United States are offering to try the suspects in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

December 5, 1998 – UN Secretary General Kofi Annan meets to urge Libya to hand over bombing suspects.

December 15, 1998 – A US appeals court rules that relatives of the 189 Americans killed in the attack can sue Libya for its possible role in sponsoring the attack.

December 16, 1998 – The Libyan People’s Congress accepts a proposal to try the suspects of the Lockerbie bombing in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

April 5, 1999 – Libya hands the suspects over to the United Nations. They are taken to the Netherlands for trial.

April 5, 1999 – The UN Security Council suspends air and arms sanctions against Libya after the bombing suspects were taken into UN custody.

June 11, 1999 – US and Libyan officials are meeting for the first time in 18 years to discuss lifting UN sanctions.

December 7, 1999 – Al Megrahi and Fhimah make their first appearance during a two-day preliminary hearing at Camp Zeist.

May 3, 2000 – The trial of the suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 al Megrahi and Fhimah begins.

November 28, 2000 – Judges in the Lockerbie trial reject a request for an acquittal from one of the two Libyans accused of planting a bomb on the Pan Am plane.

January 9, 2001 – Prosecutors drop the lesser charges of conspiracy and endangering aircraft safety against al Megrahi and Fhimah and ask the court to consider only the murder charges.

January 10, 2001 – Prosecutors are presenting their closing arguments in the case after calling 232 witnesses in eight months. The defense’s closing arguments follow, after the couple’s lawyers called only three witnesses.

January 31, 2001 – Al Megrahi is found guilty and imprisoned for a minimum of 27 years. Fhimah is found not guilty.

March 14, 2002 – Al Megrahi loses his appeal against his murder conviction in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

2003 – Gaddafi agrees to pay 2.7 billion dollars in compensation to the families of those killed in the attack.

June 28, 2004 – The United States resumes direct diplomatic relations with Libya after 24 years.

June 2007 – The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) rules that al Megrahi can appeal against his conviction.

October 2008 – It is announced that al Megrahi is suffering from terminal cancer.

October 31, 2008 – US President George W. Bush signs an executive order restoring Libya’s immunity from terrorism-related prosecution.

November 2008 – US Senator Frank Lautenberg announces at a press conference that the families of the American victims of the Pan-Am bombing have received final compensation from the Libyan government. Each family received approximately $10 million, paid in installments between 2004 and 2008.

August 20, 2009 – Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announces that al Megrahi will be released from prison on humanitarian grounds due to his terminal cancer. After being released, al Megrahi returns to Libya and receives a warm welcome.

August 2, 2010 – Senators Lautenberg and Robert Menendez hold a press conference to outline their press plan for more information on al Megrahi’s release in 2009. A group of US senators are trying to investigate rumors that the Lockerbie bomber was released as part of a deal allowing BP to drill off the coast of Libya. BP has denied these allegations.

July 26, 2011 – Al Megrahi appears in a wheelchair at a pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli.

August 28, 2011 – CNN’s Nic Robertson stalks al Megrahi at his family’s villa in Tripoli. He appears to be in a coma and near death, on oxygen and IV. The National Transitional Council announces that it will not authorize al Megrahi’s extradition. Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi said: « We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West. »

October 2, 2011 – Reuters interviews al Megrahi at his home. Al Megrahi claims his innocence.

May 20, 2012 – Al Megrahi dies in Libya.

October 15, 2015 – Scottish officials say two more Libyans have been identified as suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

November 24, 2020 – The Scottish High Court is beginning to hear an appeal from Al Megrahi’s family to overturn his conviction.

December 21, 2020 – U.S. Attorney General William Barr on Monday announced criminal charges against former Libyan intelligence officer Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi. Mas’ud is charged in a criminal complaint with allegedly supplying the suitcase with the prepared explosive that was later placed on board the flight. He is currently detained in Libya.

January 15, 2021 – The Scottish Court of Criminal Appeal rejects the Al Megrahi family’s appeal.

April 1, 2021 – Al Megrahi’s son, Ali, announces that the family intends to appeal the case directly to the UK Supreme Court.

July 14, 2022 – The UK Supreme Court is refusing leave to appeal the case « because the claim does not raise an arguable point of law ».

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