Lockerbie bombing: US charges ‘third conspirator’
The US has charged a “third conspirator” in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, on the 32nd anniversary of the atrocity, US Attorney General William Barr has announced.
The bombing of Pan Am flight 103, travelling from London to New York on December 21 1988, killed 270 people in Britain’s largest terrorist attack.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who was found guilty in 2001 of mass murder and jailed for life with a minimum term of 27 years, was the only person convicted of the attack, with another suspect acquitted.
Mr Barr told a press conference a “third conspirator” was identified along with two Libyan intelligence agents during the investigation in 1991 but at the time investigators could not “identify or locate” this person.
He said: “The United States has filed criminal charges against the third conspirator, Abu Agila Mohammad Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, for his role in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.”
The US alleges that he was the bombmaker and has charged him with terrorism-related crimes.
Mr Barr said: “Masud remains in Libyan custody. We intend to work closely with our Scottish counterparts to use every feasible and appropriate means to ensure that he answers for his part in the Lockerbie bombing.
“It is our hope that the Libyan authorities will allow Masud to be tried for this crime in the United States and will provide the support and witnesses necessary to us to bring him to justice.”
He said that US authorities would work “arm in arm” with their Scottish counterparts.
Scotland’s Lord Advocate James Wolffe QC said: “For 32 years the families of the 270 people murdered in this atrocity have shown extraordinary and enduring dignity in the face of the loss they suffered on the terrible night of 21 December 1988. Today, our thoughts are with them once again.
“Scottish prosecutors and police have had a long-established and strong working relationship with US law enforcement agencies throughout this investigation.
“This relationship will continue to be important as the investigation progresses with the shared goal of bringing all those who committed this atrocity to justice.
“Scottish prosecutors will continue to work with US colleagues but we will not comment in detail on today’s announcement given that the Scottish criminal investigation is ongoing and there is an appeal before the court in relation to this crime.”
The father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing criticised the US Department of Justice for making the announcement on the anniversary of the attack.
Rev John Mosey, the father of 19-year-old victim Helga Mosey, said he considered the “timing and particularly the choice of this specific day, which is special to many of us, to be bizarre, disrespectful, insensitive and extremely ill considered”.
He added: “Why exactly, when the Attorney General is about to leave office, has he waited 32 years to bring charges?”
Megrahi was released from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds while terminally ill with cancer, and died in Libya in 2012.
A panel of five appeal judges in Edinburgh is currently deliberating whether to acquit Megrahi over the Lockerbie bombing after the conclusion of the third appeal against his conviction last month.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar is representing the family of Megrahi in their appeal against his conviction and also acts for the family of some of the victims.
He said: “The families I represent are horrified at the intrusion on their grief, on the day that they wish to remember their loved ones.”