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Libyan bomber sentenced to life

Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah (left) and Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi pleaded not guilty to murder
Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah (left) and Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi pleaded not guilty to murder  

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (CNN) -- A Libyan intelligence agent has been sentenced to life in prison after being found guilty of the mass murder of 270 people in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi must serve at least 20 years before he is eligible for parole.

His co-defendant, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, was found not guilty of murder and walks free and will not face any further legal action in British, U.S. or other courts.

The verdicts, on Wednesday, were the culmination of a 12-year investigation that involved an international manhunt led by Scottish police and CIA investigators.

Libya has said that Megrahi, 48, who will serve his sentence in the tough Barlinnie prison in Glasgow, Scotland, will appeal against the ruling -- a process that could take a year.

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US. family members of victims say they are mostly pleased with the verdicts

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U.S. President George W. Bush says Libya should accept responsibility

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Susan Cohen "I consider Gadhafi the murderer of my daughter"

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Robin Cook, British Foreign Secretary: Libya must comply with international law

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Robin Oakley CNN.com European Political Editor:
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Abuzed Dodra Libyan Ambassador to UN: The Libyan state is innocent

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Libya reacts

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CNN's Walter Rodgers on how Lockerbie took the news

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Relative of Lockerbie victim Bert Ammerman: This leads to Gadhafi's doorstep

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U.S. President George W. Bush said he hoped the victims' families would take some solace from the guilty verdict.

"I want to assure the families and victims the United States government continues to press Libya to accept responsibility for this act and to compensate the families," he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the verdicts show "justice has taken its course."

In Washington, a statement from The White House said the verdict did not in itself signify and end to U.N. sanctions against Libya.

"This verdict is a victory for an international effort and has resulted in an indictment of a member of the Libyan intelligence services. The government of Libya must take responsibility."

Megrahi was one of two Libyans accused of planting a device on Pan Am Flight 103 which blew up over the Scottish town on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew, and 11 people on the ground.

The trail of evidence led to Megrahi and Fhimah, who both denied planting the bomb which resulted in the biggest single act of mass murder in British history.

At first Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi refused to hand them over for trial, but eventually a diplomatic deal led to the trial being held on neutral territory under Scottish law.

Following the end of the 84-day, 60 million ($90m) trial at a specially constructed Scottish court in the Netherlands, U.S. Acting Deputy Attorney General Bob Mueller said investigations would continue.

"The investigation continues to determine who else may have been involved in this act of terrorism and to bring that individual or those individuals to justice," he told CNN.

He added: "This case is not closed. The investigation continues, it has continued since the plane went down and it will continue until every individual who we can identify who played a role in this tragedy is brought to justice."

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was "glad that justice has been done."

Britain now expects Libya to take responsibility for the actions of its official and pay at least the 470 million ($700 million) compensation already awarded by the courts.

The spokesman said: "The prime minister is glad that justice has been done. The Lockerbie bombing was the most heinous terrorist act of recent years.

"Two hundred and seventy people were murdered and their families bereaved and the life of the community of Lockerbie was shattered."

Blair's spokesman went on: "We also expect them (Libya) to pay compensation as awarded by the courts and this and other requirements are laid down in the United Nations Security Council resolutions and are obligatory on Libya."

Libya's ambassador to the United Nations said Libya will "respect and implement" the verdicts of the Scottish court.

He also said his country will respect any decision that might be taken by a Scottish civil court that may follow as a result of this criminal trial.

But Abduzed Dorda firmly denied that Gadhafi was involved in the plot to plant the bomb on the Lockerbie plane.

The ambassador told CNN: "Libya was never accused in that court and has never been tried.

"The prosecutors themselves said that Libya as a state had nothing at all to do with this case, at all."

Gasps from relatives

It took less than two minutes to read the verdicts. Witnesses said the accused listened intently to the verdict, translated into Libyan, through headphones.

Lockerbie
Two-hundred-and-seventy people perished when New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie in 1988  

There were gasps from some of the relatives as Fhimah was declared not guilty.

Moments after the verdicts were released British relative Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing and who has been instrumental in leading the British campaign for justice, collapsed in court and was taken away by paramedics.

His wife, Jane, later said that the wait for the verdicts had "taken their toll" but that he was fine after being taken to hospital.

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Other relatives said the verdict proved that Libya was responsible for state-sponsored terrorism.

Aphrodite Tsairis, who lost Alexia Tsairis, a 20-year-old student, said outside the court: "This has been a long struggle for more than 10 years. I have a mixed reaction but the guilty verdict against Al Megrahi is a clear triumph.

"Al Megrahi worked in the intelligence service and the Libyan Government clearly points to a case of state-sponsored terrorism.

"It is now up to the United States Government to follow up its policy on state-sponsored terrorism. They have said that they will not tolerate state-sponsored terrorism."

She added: "My heart broke when Fhimah was allowed to leave the court."

The decision of the three judges was unanimous. The verdicts were read out by presiding judge Lord Sutherland, who was asked by the court clerk if the judges had reached a verdict.

Lord Sutherland answered "guilty" when asked for the verdict in the case of Megrahi.

Prosecutors claimed that the bomb was loaded at Malta's Luqa airport onto an Air Malta flight for Frankfurt, West Germany.

From there, the prosecution said it was transferred to a feeder flight to London's Heathrow Airport, where it joined Pan Am 103 bound for New York.

The court and the prosecution must be notified of Megrahi's intention to appeal by February 14.

The defence team then has another six weeks in which to deliver the full note of appeal detailing the grounds on which it is based, which will be considered by a single judge, called a sift judge.

He sits in chambers and will either grant or refuse leave to appeal. Only then can the case proceed to an appeal hearing in the High Court of Justiciary, which would be sitting as a Court of Criminal Appeal.

That case would be heard by five judges at Camp Zeist, and Megrahi would continue to be held there until that hearing finishes.



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RELATED SITES:
Lockerbie Verdict
Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal
Scottish Courts
Lockerbie Trial Briefing
Libyan Mission to the U.N.
Pan Am Flight 103
The White House
US Department of State
Libya Online
UK Government

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