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Thousands protest Lockerbie conviction

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Thousands of demonstrators have rallied outside the United Nations building in Tripoli in protest at the conviction of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.

Speakers at Saturday's demonstration said people were taking to the streets because the Foreign Ministry and the Libyan government had failed to handle the case as the people expected.

Megrahi's son, Khaled, joined the protest and held up a banner which read "my father is innocent."

Three Libyan men at the rally slashed their throats with razors.

A Reuters correspondent said one young man fell to the ground, blood spurting from his neck before being bundled into an ambulance and rushed to hospital.

Other witnesses said two other protesters had cut their throats in the same way to show their anger at what they called a U.S.-inspired guilty verdict.

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"The three men slashed their throats to show the world that Libyan blood is cheap to defend the country and the people's dignity," demonstrator Ali al-Arif, 63, said.

A special Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands on Wednesday convicted Megrahi of the 1988 murder of 259 people on board Pan Am Flight 103 and 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted and returned home to a hero's welcome and a meeting with Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi on Thursday.

The mainly young protesters carried placards saying the verdict was unjust and "Abdel Baset will be home as Moammar Gadhafi promised".

Another read: "Scottish judge -- you must commit suicide because your verdict is shameful."

'Wounded by injustice'

The demonstrators also repeated demands for the immediate lifting of U.N. sanctions imposed in 1992 and suspended -- but not lifted -- in April 1999 when the two suspects were handed over to the United Nations for trial.

Mohammed Rashid al Megrahi, 41, a cousin of the convicted agent, said: "We never had doubts about his innocence. We expected him to return, acquitted by the Scottish court. We are deeply disappointed, and we feel wounded by this injustice."

The protests came as Fhimah said he would seek compensation for material and psychological damages from the U.S. and Britain.

Relatives of the U.S. victims said on Friday that they would sue Libya for up to $10 billion in light of the guilty verdict against Megrahi.

Their lawyer Lee Kreindler said the written judgment concluded that what Megrahi did was in concert with the Libyan government.

"He was a fairly high-ranking officer in the Libyan Intelligence Agency and his activities appeared to have, and can be reasoned to have, government involvement," Kreindler said.

Libyan officials have consistently denied the country's involvement, and leader Gadhafi has said he has evidence to prove Megrahi was innocent which he will produce on Monday.

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
United Nations Security Council
LibyaOnline
Lockerbie Trial Briefing

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