Justice for families of Pan Am 103 - One Readers's View - Philadelphia Inquirer
Thursday, November 13, 2008
On Dec. 21, 1988, my brother was killed aboard Pan Am Flight 103 when it was bombed by Libyan terrorists over Lockerbie, Scotland. Two decades later, my family and the families of the 189 other Americans killed on that flight are finally able to claim some form of justice for our lost loved ones.
The Scottish high court convictedf one Libyan intelligence officer for his involvement after the initial investigation, but the complexities of a crime perpetrated by a foreign government made it impossible to seek traditional criminal justice for all those responsible, so we turned to the civil court.
After many painful years of negotiations, the Libyan government finally agreed to pay $10 million to each victim's family. The first 80 percent of this sum was paid as planned, but the Libyan government withheld the remaining 20 percent as it negotiated restored diplomatic relations with the United States. The closer the restoration of these ties came, the harder we fought to ensure that the Libyan government was held accountable for its debt.
In July, the United States and Libya agreed that relations could be normalized only after Libya paid its full debt for its state-sponsored terrorism. On Oct. 31, teh Libyan government executed full payment to the victims and their families.
While we may never know the names of all those involved in this crime or see them face the punisment they so justly deserve, we can gain some peace from forcing th Libyan government to be accountable for its crimes.
We thank Sen. Frank Lautenberg and others who stood by us the last two decades.
Victims of Pan Am Flight 103
Cherry Hill, N.J.
August 29, 2008
London - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son on Friday said Tripoli only accepted responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing to get sanctions lifted and slammed the victims' "greedy" families.
Seif al-Islam admitted the move was hypocritical, adding he believed that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the bombing, was not responsible for the bombing.
A total of 270 people were killed when Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York blew up over the town of Lockerbie in southern Scotland in 1988.
Asked if Libya accepts responsibility for the bombing, Seif al-Islam said in a BBC interview: "Yes, we wrote a letter to the Security Council (in 2003) saying we're responsible for the acts of our employees, our people but it doesn't mean that we did it in fact."
He added: "What can you do? Without writing that letter, you will not be able to get rid of the sanction... I admit we played with the words. We had to, we had to, there was no other solution."
Libya was brought back in from the cold after a decade of Security Council sanctions following the letter.
Relations with the US, which were cut off in 1981, were restored in 2004, a few weeks after Gaddafi announced that Tripoli was abandoning efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is visiting Libya next week, the first such trip by a top US diplomat since 1953.
Seif al-Islam also pulled no punches in criticising the families of victims, to whom Libya agreed to pay compensation in a move which he himself brokered.
"I think they (the families) were very greedy and they were trading with the blood of their sons and daughters," he said.
"The position with them, it was very terrible and it was very materialistic and it was very greedy and they were asking for money and more money and more money and more money.
"And they were talking just about money. Money money money money."
He added that the families should stop "blackmailing" Libya and work with Tripoli "to find the real criminal who's behind that attack".
Asked if Megrahi was that person, he said: "I don't think that poor guy is behind that sophisticated operation... I'm sure that that poor guy is not sophisticated and clever and capable enough to carry out that job".
Megrahi was found guilty by a trio of judges at a special court under Scottish law in the Netherlands in 2001 and sentenced to 27 years in jail. He is appealing the verdict.
Seif al-Islam added that he hoped and believed Libya was not behind the Lockerbie attack.
Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, told the BBC that many relatives of victims would find the comments "deeply offensive" but added he thought this was "the Arab way of doing things".
"The Libyans have achieved what they want - and Western commerce has got what it wants too. In this, many of us feel like pawns," he said.