US Justice Department charges Libyan over 1988 Lockerbie bombing

LOCKERBIE UN

The US Justice Department has unsealed charges against a Libyan bomb expert over the 1988 explosion of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

The attack killed 259 people in the air and an additional 11 on the ground.

The charges were announced on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing and in the final news conference of US attorney general William Barr's tenure, underscoring his personal attachment to a case that unfolded during his first stint at the Justice Department.

9 PHOTOS
Lockerbie
See Gallery
Lockerbie
LOCKERBIE, SCOTLAND - DECEMBER 21, 1988: (FILE PHOTO) Officials inspect the wreckage of Pan Am flight 103 December 21, 1988 in Lockerbie, Scotland. Convicted terrorist Abdelbaset ali al-Megrahi, has been serving a life sentence for the 1988 Pan-AM flight 103 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people. Megrahi, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer has served eight years of a life sentence, and following the decision today, August 20, 2009 has been released on compassionate grounds to go home to spend his remaining days with his family in Libya.(Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)
December 1988: Some of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 after it crashed onto the town of Lockerbie in Scotland, on 21st December 1988. The Boeing 747 'Clipper Maid of the Seas' was destroyed en route from Heathrow to JFK Airport in New York, when a bomb was detonated in its forward cargo hold. All 259 people on board were killed, as well as 11 people in the town of Lockerbie. (Photo by Bryn Colton/Getty Images)
Freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi (C-L) arrives with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam (C-R) in Tripoli late on August 20, 2009. The terminally ill Libyan convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing flew home from Scotland to a joyous reception after being freed on compassionate grounds despite fierce US opposition. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's son Seif al-Islam (R) holds hands with freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the sole Libyan convicted over the 1988 Pan Am jetliner bombing, aboard the Libyan presidential plane that brought him back home in Tripoli late on August 20, 2009. The Libyan leader met in late on August 21 with Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, amid mounting Western outrage over the hero's welcome he received upon his return. According to local media, Seif al-Islam said Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison was linked to trade deals with Britain, allegations which were swiftly denied by London. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
A memorial stone in memory of victims of Pan-Am flight 103 is pictured in a garden of remembrance near the village of Lockerbie in southwest Scotland on November 5, 2008. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al Megrahi, who was convicted and given a life sentence for the bombing of flight 103, has been granted a legal hearing to consider whether he should be released on bail pending the outcome of his appeal scheduled for Thursday November 6, in Edinburgh. AFP PHOTO/PAUL ELLIS (Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 21: Candles burn for the victims of the Lockerbie bombing during a service of remembrance to mark the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster at Westminster Abbey on December 21, 2013 in London, England. Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21, 1988, killing all those on board and a further eleven on the ground. (Photo by Luke MacGregor - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - DECEMBER 21: A bouquet of Scottish heather left at the base of a cairn during a remembrance ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery December 21, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. 243 passengers, 16 crew members, and 11 people on the ground perished when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
FARNBOROUGH, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 15: (FILE PHOTO) The reconstructed remains of Pan Am flight 103 lie in a warehouse on January 15, 2008 in Farnborough, England. Convicted terrorist Abdelbaset ali al-Megrahi, has been serving a life sentence for the 1988 Pan-AM flight 103 Lockerbie bombing, which killed 270 people. Megrahi, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer has served eight years of a life sentence, and following the decision today, August 20, 2009 has been released on compassionate grounds to go home to spend his remaining days with his family in Libya. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
|RVA0043.JPG|RVA|Resort Vacations|attractive|beautiful|calm|day|enjoyment|females|glamorous|health|horizontal|indoors|inside|joy|leisure|mud|peaceful|people|pretty|recreation|relaxation|serenity|sexy|tourism|tranquility|travel|vacations|women|african american black spa
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

He announced an earlier set of charges against two Libyan intelligence officials in his capacity as acting attorney general nearly 30 years ago, vowing that the investigation would continue.

Though Mr Barr had not appeared at a press conference in months, he led this one two days before his departure as something of a career bookend.

In presenting new charges, the Justice Department is revisiting a case that deepened the chasm between the US and Libya, laid bare the threat of international terrorism more than a decade before the September 11 attacks and produced global investigations and punishing sanctions.

US attorney general William Barr
US attorney general William Barr (Jeff Roberson/AP)

In 1992, the UN Security Council imposed arms sales and air travel sanctions against Libya to prod Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the country's leader, into surrendering the two suspects.

But the Libyan government baulked at surrendering the men to the US, sceptical they could receive a fair trial.

Libya ultimately turned them over for prosecution before a panel of Scottish judges sitting in a Netherlands court.

One man – former Libyan intelligence official Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – was convicted, and a second Libyan suspect was acquitted of all charges.

Megrahi was given a life sentence, but Scottish authorities released him on humanitarian grounds in 2009 when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

He later died in Tripoli.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi (Danny Lawson/AP)

The Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie less than an hour after take-off from London on December 21 1988, en route to New York City and then Detroit.

Among the Americans on board were 35 Syracuse University students flying home for Christmas after a term abroad.

The attack was the latest flare of tension between Libya and Western nations, including the US.

In the years before the flight, for instance, Libya was blamed for the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque that killed two American soldiers and injured dozens of others.

It was not until 2003 that Gaddafi and Libya accepted responsibility for the Pan Am disaster, with the country formally taking blame and reaching a 2.7 billion dollar compensation deal with the victims' families.

Sanctions were lifted and, in 2006, the Bush administration removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism and restored diplomatic relations with the country.

Besides Mr Barr, another key figure in the Lockerbie investigation was Robert Mueller, who was the Justice Department's criminal chief at the time the first set of charges was announced.

Mr Mueller would later become FBI director and special counsel in charge of the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign.

Read Full Story Click here to comment

FROM OUR PARTNERS

Scroll to continue with content AD