From the archives: Pan Am Bomb Suspect Sentenced

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

LONDON -- The only person so far officially identified as a suspect in the bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Scotland a year ago was sentenced by a Swedish court to life imprisonment Thursday on unrelated terrorist offenses.

The verdict came on the first anniversary of the Pan Am bombing as relatives of some of the 270 victims gathered for an emotional series of memorial services in Lockerbie, where the flaming wreckage of Flight 103 smashed to earth.

Clergymen dedicated a six-foot-high granite memorial etched with the names of the victims as two light aircraft trailing smoke to form a cross flew overhead. About 500 people, including U.S. Ambassador Henry Catto, a representative of Queen Elizabeth II and at least 20 American relatives of victims, attended the simple ceremony in a 19th-Century graveyard.

Afterwards, 270 candles were lit and wreaths heaped at the foot of the memorial, including one from Syracuse University in New York, which lost 25 students on Flight 103.

Mohammed abu Talb, 35, a Palestinian, was found guilty of attempted murder, aiding and abetting murder and other offenses in connection with a series of bombings involving American, Israeli, and Jewish targets in Copenhagen and Amsterdam in 1985. He was acquitted of a 1986 bombing in Stockholm.

Scottish investigators have circumstantial evidence linking Abu Talb to the Pan Am bombing, and he has been identified in Swedish documents as a suspect in that case. They tried to question the Palestinian in Sweden earlier this week, but he refused to cooperate.

Scottish Chief Constable George Esson confirmed last week that clothing confiscated from Abu Talb's Uppsala, Sweden, apartment in late November is being tested to compare it with blast-charred fragments believed to have been in the same suitcase that contained the Pan Am bomb.

Those fragments have already been traced to clothing purchased in a Malta boutique in November, 1988, a month before the Lockerbie tragedy. Abu Talb's passport shows that he was also in Malta at that time.

The Palestinian's Swedish lawyer, Sven-Erik Sjogren, told journalists Thursday that Abu Talb had been in Malta on an unrelated business expedition, and he repeated his client's denial that he was involved in the Pan Am bombing.

"Suspicions against Abu Talb are not more serious now than they were earlier," Sjogren said of police probes into the Malta connection. "We don't know if the boutique owner in Malta recognized him or not."

An automobile to which the Palestinian had access was reportedly cited by West German police outside the apartment of Hafez Kassem Dalkamoni, a known terrorist linked with the discovery in Duesseldorf on Oct. 26, 1988, of several booby-trapped tape recorders of the same type used to destroy Flight 103.

And Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported more circumstantial evidence Thursday, saying that police found the fatal date Dec. 21, 1988, circled in a diary seized from Abu Talb.

Attorney Sjogren told journalists in Uppsala on Thursday that his client will appeal the Swedish terrorism conviction, which was based largely on the confession of a 24-year-old confederate, Mahmoud Said al Mougrabi, who turned state's evidence.

Mougrabi and his younger brother, Moustafa, were sentenced to six years and one year in jail, respectively, for their part in the 1985 bomb attacks.

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