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Lockerbie conviction defended

Al-Megrahi (right) was pictured in a magazine article before a police line-up
Al-Megrahi (right) was pictured in a magazine article before a police line-up  

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands -- Prosecutors rejected defence claims that a lower court had misinterpreted evidence leading to the wrongful conviction of a Libyan for the Lockerbie tragedy.

Prosecutor Alan Turnbull told the appellate court reviewing the conviction of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi that the trial court had properly evaluated critical evidence on security failures at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany.

"The (original) trial court properly assessed all the evidence," Turnbull told judges on Wednesday.

Megrahi's lawyers, who opened their appeal on January 23, are fighting to quash his life sentence for murdering 270 people by blowing up a Pan Am 103 jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

Turnbull, on the second day of the prosecution case, said the "approach of the trial court was a reasoned one" and that the defence had failed to prove anyone other than al-Megrahi had carried out the attack.

In-Depth: Lockerbie appeal 

Turnbull spent most of Wednesday defending disputed evidence from Frankfurt airport's computerised baggage handling system showing the bomb bag was transferred from an Air Malta flight to a Pan Am feeder flight to London.

Megrahi's lawyers say trial judges ignored or misinterpreted evidence undermining the accuracy of the luggage records.

An apparently unaccompanied piece of luggage listed in the computer records as being transferred to the Pan Am feeder flight might have originated on a flight from Damascus instead of Malta, the defence lawyers suggest.

Prosecutors are expected to finish their submissions by the end of the week, when judges will rule on whether to hear a new witness, Ray Manly, a security guard at Heathrow Airport.

Manly volunteered a statement to police one month after the disaster, stating that he discovered a break-in at a Pan Am luggage hold the night before the crash, but never testified at the Lockerbie trial.

Defence lawyer William Taylor argued that if the trial judges had known of the break-in, it would have created "reasonable doubt as to the guilt of the appellant."

The appeal is being heard in the same makeshift courtroom at Camp Zeist, a former air force base in the Netherlands, that the original nine-month trial was held in 2000.

Libyan co-defendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was acquitted at the original trial.


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