Libya Vows to Hand Over Suspects in Pan Am Bombing
Libya said Friday that it will turn over by April 6 the two suspects in the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Scotland, and arrangements were started to transfer the pair to the custody of U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
It was the first time that Libyan leader Col. Moammar Kadafi had set a hard date for the hand-over. The agreement was announced by South African President Nelson Mandela, who helped broker the deal, and confirmed in a letter to the United Nations from Libya’s foreign minister.
After meeting with Libya’s U.N. ambassador, Annan was “greatly encouraged by this development,” a spokesman said.
More than a decade has passed since the Pan Am Boeing 747 jumbo jet took off from London’s Heathrow Airport on Dec. 21, 1988, and exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.
Previous hopes that Libya would turn over the suspects have repeatedly been dashed.
This time, it appeared Kadafi finally decided that it is advantageous to surrender the men for trial in the Netherlands in return for the lifting of sanctions against his nation, Western diplomats said.
Amid guarded optimism, officials at the United Nations began the process of organizing the hand-over, which was expected to take place with heavy security and secrecy, most likely at a military base in the Netherlands.
It was expected that Hans Corell, the U.N’s legal counsel who has engaged in delicate and discreet negotiations with Libya for months, would accompany the suspects to The Hague.
Mandela and Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar ibn Sultan, arrived in Tripoli on Thursday to try to close the deal.
They met with Kadafi late into the night. On Friday, Mandela announced the agreement before Libya’s General People’s Congress.
Earlier, Kadafi told the members of the congress that his nation had received “all the guarantees” it needed for the hand-over.
Under the plan, Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah will be tried by a Scottish court under Scottish law in the Netherlands.
If they are convicted, both men will serve their sentences in a prison in Scotland under U.N. supervision.