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CNN Today

Pan Am 103 Bombing Suspects Claim Palestinians Responsible

Aired May 3, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Lawyers for two suspected Libyan spies will argue that Pan Am 103 bombing was planned and carried out by radical Palestinians, not by their clients. The defense strategy emerged today in the Netherlands, as the suspects' trial finally got under way, 11 years after the terror attack that killed 270 people.

CNN's Nic Robertson followed the long-awaited day one and joins us with the latest from the Netherlands -- Nic.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, it took almost 20 minutes for the court to read out the complex series of charges against the two accused: conspiracy to murder, murder and contravention of aviation security. The details contained therein told of how the two defendants had been involved in fake businesses, how they had bought timers for electronic circuits for explosive devices. It was a very complex series of charges. And afterwards their defense lawyers did enter that special defense, outlining that they were blaming Palestinian terrorists, not the accused.

Now, it was also a day for families. They had waited a long time for this court appearance today. They had a range of emotions, as you would expect. They went from feeling anger when they first saw the accused to, some of them said, they felt a calming effect, knowing that it had all begun, when they first saw the accused.

And others said that they were just pleased and relieved that it had in fact all started.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM SWIRE, VICTIM'S RELATIVE: I feel an overwhelming sense of relief. That feeling started, really, in April '99 when the two accused were handed over to this court's authorities by the Dutch. And it's been growing since then. But to see the trial actually rolling into action today brings on a tremendous feeling of relief and a certain degree of pride. Because I think we've played an active part, a significant part in allowing this to take place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROBERTSON: Well, those initial proceedings took a little less than an hour. After that, they moved straight on to the prosecution evidence. The prosecution using air traffic controllers as witnesses, who were working that night, to detail the last movements of that Pan Am 103 as it flew toward Scotland from London's Heathrow airport. And in fact, they showed a video clip in the court, where that plane disappeared from the radar screen -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Nic Robertson, covering day one in the Netherlands, thanks.

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