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Lockerbie defence focuses on security

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CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands -- Lawyers for the Libyans accused of the Lockerbie bombing have turned to airport security as the trial winds up.

During his summing-up, William Taylor, counsel for Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, highlighted errors in baggage security at Frankfurt airport to support his argument that others could have been the true bombers.

The Lockerbie trial was then adjourned until next Tuesday, when defence lawyers will resume closing submissions to the court.

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Megrahi, 48, and co-defendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima, 44, pleaded not guilty to murdering 270 people who perished in the 1988 disaster. If convicted, they face life imprisonment under the Scottish law governing the trial.

The defence says a German cell of the Syrian-backed Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) had the means and motive to attack Pan Am flight 103,

The Boeing 747 jumbo jet blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on December 21, 1988.

Taylor says the prosecution has not proved its case that an unaccompanied suitcase containing an improvised bomb was placed, at Malta's Luqa airport, onto flight KM180 to Frankfurt, where it was transferred to flight 103, bound for New York via London.

Taylor has argued that security procedures were sound at Luqa, where prosecutors say Fahima was a Libyan Arab Airlines station manager who used his role to assist the bombing plot.

Baggage security at Frankfurt airport was sloppier, Taylor told the court on Friday, with luggage handlers making mistakes and omissions as they struggled under heavy time pressures.

"The theory that the improvised explosive device arrived in Frankfurt from flight KM180 is dependent upon your lordships accepting a degree of accuracy in relation to documentation, time recording and work practices, none which are warranted," Taylor told the panel of three top Scottish judges.

'Irregularities and peculiarities'

On Thursday, Taylor suggested a fragment of the timer found after the disaster had been tampered with before it was sent for forensic examination.

Lockerbie
Scottish police guard the court during the trial  

"Irregularities and peculiarities attached to this item are such that the court ought to have some hesitation in being satisfied as to the item's provenance," he said.

The defence need prove nothing; it need only show "sufficient doubt" over the prosecution case in the minds of the judges sitting at a special court on a former U.S. airbase in the Netherlands if Megrahi and Fahima are to walk free.

Judges have three available verdicts: Guilty, not guilty or not proven.

After his examination of Frankfurt security, Taylor will turn his attention to the security procedures at London's Heathrow airport.

He will then challenge evidence from some "star" witnesses on whose testimony the prosecution case is based, such as CIA mole Abdul Majid Giaka and Edwin Bollier, whose firm is said to have supplied the timer used in the bombing.

Taylor's final submissions will be followed by summarising arguments from Fahima's counsel Richard Keen.

In November, Keen asked judges in vain to drop charges against his client because there was "no case to answer."

The prosecution has adopted a risky all-or-nothing strategy of pursuing a single charge of murder, having dropped the lesser charges of conspiracy to murder and violation of aviation security contained in the original indictment.

The trial began in May after an agreement between the U.S., Britain and Libya allowed for the men to be transferred to the Netherlands.

Reuters contributed to this report.



RELATED STORIES:
Defence wind up Lockerbie case
January 11, 2001
Prosecutors put finishing touches on Lockerbie case
January 10, 2001
Lockerbie verdict draws closer
January 9, 2001
Lockerbie judges reject acquittal plea
November 29, 2000
Libyan agent denies bomb link
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Reporter's Notebook: Remembering the Lockerbie tragedy
August 21, 2000

RELATED SITES:
Scottish Courts
Lockerbie Trial Briefing
Libyan Mission to the U.N.

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