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by Margaret Taylor
21 December 2023
Lockerbie bomb suspect to face US trial in May 2025

Today marks the 35th anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing, in which 270 people were killed | Alamy

Lockerbie bomb suspect to face US trial in May 2025

Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC has welcomed the news that a man accused of being involved in the Lockerbie bombing will face trial in the US in May 2025.

It is three years since the US Department of Justice raised charges against 71-year-old Abu Agila Mas’ud, alleging that he made the device that destroyed PanAm Flight 103 and killed 270 people 35 years ago today.

He pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include the destruction of an aircraft resulting in death, when he appeared in a Washington DC court in February this year.

When entering the plea on his behalf, Mas'ud's lawyer Whitney Minter, a public defender, requested that he face a jury trial.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who in 2001 was found guilty of 270 counts of murder for his involvement in the bombing, was tried by a panel of three Scottish judges at a specially convened court in the Netherlands.

Bain, who is today attending a memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in the US to mark the anniversary of the tragedy, said the date of Mas'ud's trial has been set for 12 May 2025, adding that she is “encouraged with the progress in the court process”.

“Scottish and US authorities have worked together since 1988 to bring those responsible for this atrocity to justice,” she said.

“That work continues as a dedicated team of Scottish prosecutors and officers from Police Scotland support the US Department of Justice and the FBI in this prosecution.”

Laura Buchan, who heads the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service’s Lockerbie investigation team, also welcomed the news that a trial date has been set, saying “the passing of time is no protection for those who seek to evade justice”.

“The court at Camp Zeist which convicted Megrahi held that this act of terrorism was orchestrated by the Libyan government and that other individuals were involved,” she said.

“While people of interest are still alive and there is evidence that can continue to be gathered, this investigation will not stop.

“We have a duty to fully investigate this crime on behalf of every person who was impacted by the events of that dreadful night.”

In total 270 people were killed when the plane exploded above Lockerbie. The vast majority – 190 – were American citizens, with a further 43 from the UK. Eleven people were killed on the ground in the Scottish town.

US and British investigators charged Megrahi and fellow Libyan Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah with 270 counts of murder in 1991, but it took until 2000 for their trial to begin. Though the case was heard at a court in Camp Zeist, the pair were tried under Scottish law.

Fhimah was acquitted and Megrahi was convicted. He was sentenced to 27 years but was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Several attempts to overturn his conviction have failed.

Speaking about the case against Mas’ud, Police Scotland Deputy Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, who is also attending the US memorial service, said the force “remains committed to bringing those responsible for this atrocity to justice”.

“We continue working closely with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, and in the US with colleagues from the FBI and the Department of Justice, on both the investigation and supporting the ongoing prosecution in the US courts,” he said.

“My thoughts today remain with everyone affected by the bombing of Pan Am 103 and the terrible loss of 270 lives. They will never be forgotten.

“It is a great honour to attend the memorial service in Washington and to meet many of those families who have shown such great courage and dignity over many years.

“The impact of this horrific crime continues to have a profound effect in Lockerbie, across Scotland and internationally as we mark the 35th anniversary.”

Bain added: “For 35 years now the families of the 270 people murdered on the night of the 21 December 1988 have borne their losses with huge dignity and my thoughts are with them.

“I am honoured to have been invited to attend a memorial ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in the United States and to be able to meet with so many of the families and understand how those that are gone are loved and remembered.”

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