21 December 1988 air tragedy. Pan Am Airlines flight 103 from London to New York exploded while flying over Lockerbie, Scotland. 259 passengers and crew were killed on the plane; 11 people on the ground were killed by debris from the crash.

British investigators found that the crash occurred as the result of a bomb exploding in the cargo hold of the jet. A U.S. Central Intelligence Agency investigation resulted in two Libyan intelligence agents being charged in a Scottish court with the attack. After long negotiations, Libya finally turned the two men over in 1999 to be tried in a Scottish court convened in the Netherlands. The trial is currently ongoing, over 12 years since the plane exploded.

On December 21, 1988, Pan Am flight 103 from London's Heathrow Airport to New York exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, 38 minutes after takeoff, killing all 259 passengers and 11 people on the ground.

Debris from the 747 was scattered over 845 square miles. One garden had sixty bodies deposited in it. Other people were found still strapped to their seats. The search for bodies was hampered by the fact that the flight's cargo included one million sewing machine needles.

There were no walking wounded.

Following a Fatal Accident Enquiry, it was ascertained that a small amount of explosive had detonated near the front of the aircraft, causing it to blow up. The blame was placed on two Libyan baggage handlers, who are alleged to have placed a bomb in a cassette recorder in a Samsonite suitcase full of clothes. It was placed on a flight from Malta to Hamburg, and transferred from there to Heathrow. Due to a lapse in security, it was allowed to be placed on flight 103 without any checks to make sure it was accompanied by a passenger.

Arrest warrants were placed by Scotland and the USA on Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who Libya refused to give up for trial. After years of sanctions, it was finally agreed to hold the trial in a Scottish court, but on neutral territorry.

Camp Zeist, a former US Military base in Holland has been allocated as "The Scottish Court in The Netherlands", and for over a year, the two accused have been held on remand while the trial was prepared. It is policed by officers from Dumfries and Galloway Police, and the court is run under the Scottish legal system. In a break from the norm, there is no jury. Instead, three judges are sitting.

On May 3, 2000, the charges against the accused were read out - 270 counts of murder, Conspiracy to Murder (should the murder charge fail) and violation of the Aviation Security Act. The accused plead not guilty.

The trial continues.


charges against the accused >>

(Editor's note: this was moved over from the Lockerbie node, with a few minor adjustments to the first paragraph.)

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