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Mixed Global Reaction Greets Lockerbie Trial Verdict

Aired January 31, 2001 - 6:30 a.m. ET


LINDA STOUFFER, CNN ANCHOR: We've been following the decision by Scottish judges to find one of the Libyan defendants guilty, the other not guilty, in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

We take you live now to a news conference out of Lockerbie, Scotland. Let's listen in.


ANDREW CAMPBELL, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY COUNCIL: And gave me assurance that their efforts have been appreciated. We should -- we should reflect also on the unique and enduring bond of friendship forged between the people of Scotland and the families of the victims: a bond of friendship born out of tragedy, representing the finest of human qualities and the great human spirit.

This tragedy, of course, took place 12 years ago. And I'm sure one of the messages that the people of Lockerbie, and indeed the people of Dumfries and Galloway and Scotland would like to give out today to the victims -- to the families of the victims and their -- about the fate of their loved ones is quite simple. We recognize the hardship and the stress these people have come through over the years.

And the message goes out to the world: There is no hiding place anywhere for such atrocity as took place with the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie in December, 1988.

I would like to now ask the chief executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council if he would like to make a comment.


PHIL JONES, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY COUNCIL: The Lockerbie trial in the Netherlands focused on how the murder of 270 men, women and children was committed, and by who. The trial and the outcome of the trial has provided certain answers to those questions. But no measure of justice administered by the courts could ever equal such an appalling loss of life. And no measure can be placed on the opportunity that was denied innocent people to live their lives.

The families and those most closely affected will have their own private thoughts today on the outcome of the trial. And whilst, for some, this verdict will bring matters to a degree of closure, for others, no doubt, the search for answers will go on. Our thoughts go out once again to the families from 21 nations affected by this devastating tragedy.

CAMPBELL: Thank you very much, Chief Executive.

Could we ask for questions, please? You have the names of the people up in front of you here. And if you'd like to address them either through me or directly, then that would be acceptable.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) by this tragedy (OFF-MIKE)

CAMPBELL: Thank you for that.

Margory, would you care to make a comment as a local counselor -- perhaps Libby Levine (ph) as well.

MARGORY MCQUEEN, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY COUNCIL: I think that the town of Lockerbie has drawn a line under what happened here. And we drew a line some considerably number of years ago. There has not been of dearth of anticipation here at the verdict of the trial that you've all expected. And I'm sure you've found that out as you've walked through the town.

Obviously, our thoughts are with the relatives today. Their fate are a mainstay here. And that's what we are doing in Lockerbie: really looking after the relatives. The town itself, physical scars, have healed. We're just a normal market town that you would have found here 12 years ago.

QUESTION: Are you telling me a town in which (OFF-MIKE)

MCQUEEN: What I'm saying is that, immediately after December, 1988, there were lots of people in town -- and young people as well -- who suffered post-traumatic stress. That's -- that was the way it was. But what I'm saying is now, when a town who picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves down, and we're just getting on with the day-to-day living.

CAMPBELL: I think it's fair to say that what I said in my opening remarks is perfectly true. Because of this tragedy, the people of Lockerbie have shone out to the world in what they are, who they are, and the type of people they are. And I think the people who have lost a family in this realize the sincerity that has been spoken by the people of Lockerbie, and indeed, been led by Marjorie McQueen, the local member.

Perhaps maybe I could ask Levine, another local member, to have -- her point of view.


Yes, I think that the people of Lockerbie will always be here to help and support the families. But as Mrs. McQueen has just said, the town has started to heal. The scars have grown over. And, basically, people here are just getting on with their everyday lives.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

Another question?

Yes, sir.


CAMPBELL: Well, of course, the procedure that we have -- the knowledge that we have from Camp Zeist at the moment is that one guilty and one not guilty. And it would seem to us that that would probably indicate that, obviously, the one that's guilty would have the opportunity to appeal.

It would be -- they would be given the same -- they have been given the same opportunity as anybody else would be under the Scottish court rules. And I'm quite sure, yes, it will go on and on. And there will be questions still to be answered. At this minute in time, we can only deal with what has happened to date. And that is the position we find ourselves to be.


CAMPBELL: Certainly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What was the question please?


JOE MEECHAN, DUMFRIES AND GALLOWAY COUNCIL: I think that we see the trial as the end of a chapter. And the story will go on. I think there will always be concern that the perpetrator has been prosecuted, but the person or people who issued the orders to carry out this disastrous act still (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

Any other questions?

STOUFFER: All right, you've been listening to a news conference out of Lockerbie, Scotland. Local officials there, members of the Dumfries and Galloway Council speaking about today's verdict in the Lockerbie bombing trial -- one man saying of the guilty verdict that it sends a message to the world that there is no hiding place anywhere in the world.

Several of the local officials there also had words about the victims' families, speaking of the hardship and stress they've been through in the last 12 years -- one woman saying, "Our thoughts are with the relatives today." Important to remember, too, that 259 people were on that plane when it exploded. Eleven people were killed on the ground from the falling debris in Lockerbie, Scotland.

Now, our Frank Buckley has been in New York this morning. That is also where some relatives are. They've been watching the verdicts as they came in on television.

Hello, Frank. What are you hearing there?

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, right now, many of the family members are inside the Jacob Javits Federal Building having breakfast. They say they are not going to speak to the media until after the sentencing that they expect later today. Others have begun to come out and speak to the media.

There have been -- there's been the ability for family members throughout this trial to watch on closed-circuit television, both here in New York, also in Washington, D.C. Some of them have come out, some of them expressing frustration over the period that's taken place here: 12 years to reach a verdict -- some of them also saying that they believe the case goes further than just the two men who are on trial.


BERT AMMERMAN, RELATIVE OF VICTIM: The Scottish judicial process was outstanding. No one can question the integrity of what took place. So our loved ones did not die in vain. Today is a day of satisfaction. True justice though, I believe, will never be served because the person that should be brought to justice is the leader of Libya. And I just don't think that's going to happen.

GEORGE WILLIAMS, FATHER OF VICTIM: ... of 13 years hard work, but it's not the end. Now we go after Gadhafi. Gadhafi was the godfather. These guys were the hitmen.


BUCKLEY: And joining me now is Jack Flynn, the father of John Patrick Flynn, who was 21 years old and was aboard Pan Am Flight 103. He was a junior at Colgate.

Your reaction, Jack, to the verdict today?

JACK FLYNN, VICTIM'S FATHER: I have spent the last nine months going to trial every day. So I'm gathering -- looking at all the evidence. And I felt that Megrahi was definitely -- both of them were involved. We had the evidence to convict Megrahi. And thank God the judges agreed with me and they came up with the guilty verdict.

I did not feel that the -- we had enough evidence against Fhimah, the second accused. And the judges also felt that way, which was true. They had very little evidence against him. So I was very happy that they were able to convict Megrahi because he was the key person. He was the person that was part of the Libyan central intelligence. He was a major in their central intelligence. He was the one that went to Zurich and got the timer.

He was the one who bought the clothes. He was the one who did everything pertaining to. All Fhimah did was help him get it on the plane at the end, and we didn't have enough against him.

BUCKLEY: You were...

FLYNN: But I'm very satisfied.

BUCKLEY: You were able to watch the trial. As you know, one of the prosecution witnesses was expected to place the two men actually placing the suitcase aboard the airplane. That is what people were expecting.

FLYNN: Right.

BUCKLEY: That evidence did not emerge. The fact that that did not emerge, the fact that it was a circumstantial evidence case, do you think that contributed to the fact that there was only one guilty verdict?

FLYNN: They had a minimal amount of evidence against Fhimah. They had an awful lot of evidence against Megrahi. The person you talked about was the double agent, which was Giaka. And Giaka said he saw the two of them come off the plane into Malta when they were coming from Libya on the 20th. He saw them with a brown Samsonite bag. He did not see them put it on the plane or anybody else put it on the plane. And that was the issue. They didn't have enough evidence on Fhimah. But they had a lot of background evidence on Megrahi about the timer, as I said before, and about the clothes and so forth.

BUCKLEY: OK. People talk about this word closure. And when you talk to people who've been through something like this, who have lost a loved one, they say you can never have closure. What's your view of that?

FLYNN: Yes. I mean, you can't replace your child, you know. You can't replace your child. What I'm really looking for at this point in time, that our government tries to make sure that terrorist nations don't do these kinds of things, especially to an American. There is an awful lot of hatred against America in other parts of the world. God knows for what reason. And we've got to somehow stop these countries and these terrorists from doing these kinds of things. And I hope that we take some action to make sure that Libya and any other terrorist country never does anything like this again.

BUCKLEY: Jack, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

FLYNN: Thank you.

BUCKLEY: That one of the reactions here among the family members who have gathered in New York. Jack has been coming every day with his wife, Kathleen, to witness the trial over the men accused of murdering his son and many others.

Back to you.

STOUFFER: Frank, I have a quick question for you. I'm hoping you can help sort of set the scene for us. These folks got up very early, because of the time difference, to come in and hear the verdict, 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. They've been waiting 12 years to have something official from the court system. I know they had a picture from the Netherlands, but could you set the scene for us? What happened then?

BUCKLEY: Well, we know that some of these family members were up at 3:00 this morning, perhaps earlier. Many of them stayed in a local hotel together. About 25 people stayed in a local hotel together, boarded a bus and came down here to the federal building together and then watched in this room, where there is a big-screen TV. And they could see what was happening in the Netherlands.

They weren't able to hear, apparently, initially. And we can't independently say that. We weren't allowed in and reporters have not been able to go into this room. But we've been told by the family members they couldn't hear the verdict being announced. It was very tense. They didn't know what was happening at first. Then they found out that there was at least one guilty verdict. And that's when there was cheering in the room.

STOUFFER: It must have been very tense. Frank Buckley out of New York following the families and their reactions to these verdicts. Frank, thank you very much -- Jason.

CARROLL: And, Linda, as you heard from some of the family members there, a number of them feel as though that this case does not stop with the two defendants, that there -- that this case goes all the way to the top of the Libyan government.

With more on the Libyan reaction, we go now to Richard Roth, who is live at the U.N.

Richard, what can you tell us?

RICHARD ROTH, CNN UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we've just gotten off the phone with Libya's United Nations ambassador, Omar Dorda. He has expressed sympathy for the family members, but said that he was shocked by the verdicts, did not think -- his country did not think much of the evidence, and that his country is going to go to the U.N. Security Council to try to get a permanent lifting of the economic and arms sanctions that were imposed by the Security Council on the Libyan government nearly 10 years ago.

The council suspended the sanctions several years ago because Libya turned over the two suspects for trial. That was the main point of these sanctions. Diplomats this morning telling us here that they don't expect any change in that status at this moment. They're going to be reviewing the case. The United Nations has sanctions on Libya; the U.S. and some other countries with unilateral sanctions.

But the sanctions, according to some diplomats here, were really designed, quote, "as a lever to get Libya to turn over the suspects." That was a major part of the sanctions' efforts. Now it would seem impossible to get the sanctions to be reimposed by a formal vote because many members of the council, except for the United States and the United Kingdom, oppose the reimposition of the sanctions. It's been the U.S. and Britain, which blocked the late December move by the Nanaline (ph) movement to get the sanctions lifted. That even before the verdicts were reached -- Jason.

CARROLL: All right, thank you very much. Richard Roth coming to us live from the U.N.

Just to recap a little bit of what Richard was saying, the Libyan government obviously disappointed with this morning's verdict. We're also hearing that they're going to go to the U.N. to try to lift some of the sanctions there that have been imposed upon Libya.

STOUFFER: And just to recap what we've been learning this morning, a split decision from the Scottish judges hearing the case about the Lockerbie bombing, Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi found guilty. We expect his sentencing to happen in just over an hour from now. Lamen Khalifa Fhimah found not guilty.

Mixed reaction coming in from all over the world, a story we will continue to follow for you.



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