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Lockerbie Trial: its Lessons

February 1, 2001



The trial of two Libyans for their involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was well worth the time, money, and diplomatic energy invested in it.

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True, now that one of the defendants has been found guilty and one innocent, a lot of questions remain unanswered. Who else was involved in the terrorist plot? Did Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi sign off on it? Some of these questions may never be put to rest.

Still, the trial clearly demonstrates the determination of the United States, Britain, and other nations to pursue terrorists until at least some likely perpetrators are brought to justice.

The long effort to track the Flight 103 bombers achieved a breakthrough in 1998 when Libya agreed to turn over two chief suspects. A deal was worked out to hold their trial in the Netherlands, with Scottish judges.

The evidence presented by prosecutors was voluminous, if circumstantial. It was much more incriminating of one of the men, a former Libyan intelligence officer, than of the other.

With the guilty finding, Libya now has more to answer for, not less. It did cooperate, and UN sanctions were suspended. Mr. Qaddafi wants to shed his rogue image, but his past championing of terrorism isn't quickly atoned for. London and Washington will demand compensation for victims' families. Normal economic and diplomatic relations won't be restored until Libya shows even more cooperation in this case.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society