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Al-Megrahi is innocent, Libya says

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Five judges unanimously turned down Al-Megrahi's appeal  


CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands -- Libya has called for the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi after a Scottish appeals court upheld his conviction.

The Libyan foreign ministry maintained its "unwavering belief that" Al-Megrahi is innocent and that he was a "political prisoner" because the case had been politically motivated by the United States and Britain.

The statement, quoted by Reuters, read: "The verdict confirms once again that the United States and Britain have imposed their say on the court to enforce a political verdict."

The appeal was heard by five judges sitting at a special court in Camp Zeist, Netherlands, under Scottish legal jurisdiction. (Full story)

The foreign ministry accused the verdict of being "a serious affront and a clear condemnation of the Scottish judiciary which we expected to pronounce a fair judgment in favour of the Libyan citizen Abdel Basset al-Megrahi."

It would continue to try and secure the release of the father-of-two, it said.

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Anti-riot police have surrounded the British and Dutch embassies in Tripoli, as well as the U.N. offices, amid fears of street protests over the Lockerbie court ruling.

Al-Megrahi was found guilty last year of loading an unaccompanied suitcase bomb in Malta that was later transferred onto Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded en route from London to New York.

He was sentenced to life in prison while his alleged accomplice, Lamen Khalifa Fhima, also a Libyan, was acquitted.

The UK meanwhile has called for Libya to adhere to U.N. Security Council's resolutions before sanctions can be completely lifted on the country.

Britain's Home Secretary Jack Straw said he hoped the appeals ruling would bring some "solace and comfort" to the families whose relatives died onboard Pan Am flight 103, or to those whose family and friends were killed on the ground in the 1988 disaster.

The judges said there were "no grounds" for a successful appeal.

Some of the relatives who attended the ruling said they were "satisfied" that convicted Libyan Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi had lost his appeal. (Full story)

Straw responded to the relatives' call for an inquiry into airport security, saying the judgment was 200-pages long and the government would be looking at it with care.

Straw also urged Libya to fulfil its international obligations in respect of Lockerbie.

He said that Libya had shown a desire to combat international terrorism but added: "I urge the government of Libya to comply fully with the terms of the United Nations' Security Council resolutions."

The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said in February that Libya would pay compensation to families of the victims even if al-Megrahi were acquitted on appeal. The final bill could be total billions of dollars.

But the Libyan foreign ministry said in its statement that it wanted compensation for all losses caused on its people by the U.N. sanctions.

Both Libya and the international community are keen to see an end to sanctions, CNN's Chris Burns said.

The Camp Zeist appeal ruling will have "important implications" towards that end, he added.

Libya is sitting on vast oil reserves which have not been exploited since Lockerbie.

Trade delegations, especially in the United States, have been lobbying for the chance to work in Libya.

United Nations sanctions against Libya were suspended shortly after the suspects were handed over in 1999.

They were not fully lifted and the Security Council could vote to reimpose them if it is unhappy with Libya's conduct.

The United States extended its own unilateral sanctions against Libya for five years in August 2001.

Some of al-Megrahi's defence lawyers, in the Libyan Bar Association, criticised the judges' decision saying their client could go to the UK's House of Lords or European Court of Human Rights for a further legal challenge.

The association's president Hafid Jhoja said there was no clear evidence that this (the Lockerbie bombing) involved a Libyan citizen.

Scotland's SNP's shadow Scottish Justice Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: "This unique trial has shown the Scottish justice system to be robust and effective in the eyes of the world -- right from the actions of the police officers investigating the immediate aftermath of this terrible crime up to today's verdict."



 
 
 
 






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