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Pan Am Bombing: Acquitted Fhimah Returns Home to Hero's Welcome

Aired February 2, 2001 - 4:09 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: In an exclusive interview with CNN, the Libyan man acquitted this week for the 1988 Pan Am bombing says the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency framed him for the crime. Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah has returned now to Libya, as the second Libyan tried in the case begins a life sentence following his conviction.

CNN's Brent Sadler is in Tripoli where he spoke to a man honored by Libya's Moammar Gadhafi as a conquering hero.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRENT SADLER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Tripoli, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah savors his freedom. Cleared of the Lockerbie bombing, his family, friends and neighbors flock to his side. Congratulations abound for this welcome home.

As the men digest the Lockerbie events, there's heavy work in the kitchen: women preparing an endless feast. Khalifa Fhimah is glued to the phone, taking calls from afar. The previous day, he fell into the arms of his leader, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. They challenged the Lockerbie verdict, alleging it was influenced by a United States' plot. Gadhafi denies responsibility for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103 and insists it's Libya which deserves compensation for U.S. air strikes 15 years ago.

Silent in court, Khalifa Fhimah now suggests he was framed by the CIA and asks the Scottish authorities to watch over his convicted friend.

AL AMIN KHALIFA FHIMAH, ACQUITTED OF LOCKERBIE BOMBING: We treated very well from the people to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) us. They were very nice. I thank them from here, from my house now. And I am sending best regards to them. Many thanks for them. And I am asking them to be with my friend up to the end.

SADLER: By the end, he means a possible acquittal on appeal.

FHIMAH: The victim of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has right ask for them right, but not from us. And they should wait until the last resort. There is still a vehicle. And we will succeed in the...

(END VIDEOTAPE) SADLER: Colonel Gadhafi is now claiming that the man who has started at least a 20-year prison sentence for the Lockerbie bombing is as innocent as the man he welcomed home yesterday. And Colonel Gadhafi is saying he can prove it with a tantalizing promise to make new revelations about the case next week -- back to you, Joie.

CHEN: Brent, before you go, can you talk a little bit about that statement that Colonel Gadhafi made, offering that he's going to provide some new evidence next week? Is that a message, do you think, provided to Libyans sort of as an internal message? Or do you think that he really thinks that the court of world opinion will be listening to his evidence?

SADLER: Well, I think that court of world opinion may well have to listen to what Mr. Gadhafi has to say on Monday. Information Ministry officials here are suggesting he might make a press conference. And there are many media teams here in the Libyan capital. The substance of what Colonel Gadhafi has to say we have no idea at this stage. And whether if offers anything concrete about the trial, we don't know.

But what it does really illustrate is that the Libyan leader has no intention, really, of dropping his claims that the trial was fixed in some way.

CHEN: And at the time that the trial ended, some Libyan officials has said remarks to the effect that they thought it was an opportunity now for improved relations with the United States now that the trial was ended and all this had been worked out. Is there an indication now, given what they have heard from the new Bush administration, that there is going to be any sort of opening there?

SADLER: Well, that was certainly the word out of Tripoli in the first place. Foreign Ministry officials and Libya's ambassador to the United Nations were all saying they were going to respect the verdict. But as soon as Colonel Gadhafi made his first pronouncement, that was turned on its head: the Libyan leader not only talking about injustice at the court in the Netherlands, but also referring to compensation, which Libya thinks ought to be considered for the 1986 victims, Libyan victims of U.S. air strikes here -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Brent Sadler, reporting to us from Tripoli in Libya.

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