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Lockerbie bomber granted appeal

Lockerbie appeal is likely to be heard next year  

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- The Libyan secret agent found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing has been granted leave to appeal against his conviction, Scotland's High Court has said.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is serving a life sentence after being convicted at the end of January for the 1988 bombing of the Pan Am flight 103 passenger jet which killed 270 people over the Scottish town.

The special court set up in the former United States air base at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands made a recommendation that he serve at least 20 years in a Scottish jail.

His co-defendant Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, a Libyan Arab Airlines official, was found not guilty, and returned to Libya to be greeted by cheering crowds.

Al-Megrahi's lawyers lodged the grounds for the appeal in June, without making them public.

The High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh said in a statement on Thursday that the appeal could go ahead with a preliminary hearing scheduled for October 15 at Camp Zeist.

"The High Court has fixed a date for a preliminary hearing at which a number of procedural and administrative matters will be considered," the statement said.

"The court will fix a date for hearing the merits of the appeal in due course."

Judges in the nine-month trial ruled that al-Megrahi had a role in sending a bomb onto the flight in an unaccompanied suitcase from the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has poured scorn on the conviction, accusing the judges of fixing the verdicts for political reasons.

Al-Megrahi is being supported in his appeal by Harvard Professor Alan Dershowitz and British human rights advocate Michael Mansfield.

Dershowitz wrote in The Scotsman newspaper earlier in the month that he had become concerned that the legal standards of proof of Al-Megrahi's guilt had not been met.

He said he also feared "the wrong man may well have been convicted of the crime and the real mass murderer may not have been charged."

• Lockerbie Verdict
• Lockerbie Trial Briefing Site
• Scottish Courts Welcome Page
• The Pan Am 103 crash website

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