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CNN Today

Pan Am 103 Bombing Verdict: Families, Town Heal After Trial Outcome

Aired January 31, 2001 - 2:02 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Another major story we have been following all day: the long-awaited verdict in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. This case began 12 years ago with an explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland. After an international manhunt, two Libyans were put on trial in the neutral Netherlands. Today, relatives of some of the 270 victims watched, as a Scottish court passed judgment: one guilty, one not.

We begin with our senior international correspondent Richard Blystone, who is in the Netherlands -- Dick.

RICHARD BLYSTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, Abdel Baset Al- Megrahi is once again behind bars, behind a 20-foot wall here at Camp Zeist. He will remain there at least for the time being, until probably his lawyer files a notice of intention to appeal, and he has two weeks to do that.

Meanwhile, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, pronounced guilty, today is on his way home. He Left two hours ago, stepped into a Dutch limousine, waved to the cameras as he left Camp Zeist, which has his home for the last year and 10 months. His return to Libya is part of a joint U.N./Dutch operation.

Compared to the horror and the chaos of the bombing and its aftermath, the trial over the last 84 days has been rather a humdrum affair, and it ended when three judges accepted that a web of circumstantial evidence was strong enough to bear the burden of a finding of guilt against Megrahi.

The minimum sentence, 20 years before Megrahi would get to the right to file an appeal for a parole, was not popular with many of the relatives, including Peter Lowenstein -- his young student son died aboard Pan Am Flight 103.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PETER LOWENSTEIN, FATHER OF VICTIM: You know with what the sentence was life in prison with a minimum of 20 years before early release is allowed, which in spite of the judge's rationale, that he's serving it in a foreign country and his age, I think 20 years is just outrageous. That works out to less than one month per life -- 270 people were killed, and this man could be out on parole in less than 270 months. Just don't think that that's an appropriate sentence. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLYSTONE: Those seeking the whole truth about Lockerbie are now looking to a civil suit in the United States and the possibility of a public inquiry in Britain. In many ways, this has been a long wait in the dark for many people. The trial has cast but little light, but you have not heard the last of Lockerbie -- Joie.

CHEN: Dick, we did hear Mr. Lowenstein's and concern from some other victims' family members about the length of this sentence or the length before any possibility of parole. But relative to what sentences are in the Netherlands, I mean, would this be considered a hefty sentence there?

BLYSTONE: Well, in Europe, of course, sentences tend to be lighter, and a life sentence in many places in Europe is very far short of a life sentence. In this case, for murder in Scotland, the mandatory sentence, unless there is mitigation, in this case there is none, is life. It's pretty hard to say what the average European on street would say was a proper sentence for somebody found guilty of killing 270 people, though.

CHEN: CNN's Richard Blystone, reporting to us from Camp Zeist.

From the tiny Scottish town where Pan Am Flight 103 crashed, a mixture of relief and some bewilderment, though most residents agree it is time to move on.

Linda Kennedy with more from Lockerbie.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDA KENNEDY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The town hall in Lockerbie sounded 10:00, and news of the verdict was pestering the streets in moments, as at last, this town new who killed 270 people in the skies above them. They had waited anxiously for that moment to come.

ANNOUNCER: Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi: guilty.

KENNEDY: It brought quiet satisfaction to the more senior policemen living in Lockerbie, relieved years of investigation paid off.

JOHN CARPENTER, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: Having come through that disastrous night and worked on the ground, I've always, from the very outset when a warrant was issued for the arrest of these two individuals, felt there was a good case.

KENNEDY: Today the world's media descended on the town for reaction to the outcome, which many locals hope will finally end all this attention.

MARJORY MCQUEEN, LOCKERBIE COUNCILOR: As far as Lockerbie's concerned, that's the verdict. The judges have spoken. And now it's business as usual again in the town. KENNEDY: And Lockerbie has moved on, with all physical scars of the disaster gone. One of the most memorable images, the street destroyed by fallen fuel tanks -- is where that regeneration is clearest.

(on camera): This is Sherwood Crescent (ph) today, now completely rebuilt, and for many in Lockerbie, this street sums it all up. It's been 12 years since the disaster, and things have changed.

(voice-over): Yet at the Garden of Remembrance today, fresh notes were laid for the dead. This time we'll never forget the tragedy with bares its name.

Linda Kennedy, ITN (ph), Lockerbie.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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