PoliticsLibyan Charged in 1988 Lockerbie Plane Bombing Is in...

Libyan Charged in 1988 Lockerbie Plane Bombing Is in FBI Custody

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WASHINGTON — A Libyan intelligence operative charged within the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, was arrested by the F.B.I. and is being extradited to the USA to face prosecution for one of many deadliest terrorist assaults in American historical past, officers stated on Sunday.

The arrest of the operative, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, was the fruits of a decades-long effort by the Justice Division to prosecute him. In 2020, Legal professional Normal William P. Barr introduced felony prices towards Mr. Mas’ud, accusing him of constructing the explosive system used within the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 passengers, together with 190 People.

Mr. Mas’ud faces two felony counts, together with destruction of an plane leading to demise. He was being held at a Libyan jail for unrelated crimes when the Justice Division unsealed the fees towards him two years in the past. It’s unclear how the U.S. authorities negotiated the extradition of Mr. Mas’ud.

Mr. Mas’ud’s suspected position within the Lockerbie bombing acquired new scrutiny in a three-part documentary on “Frontline” on PBS in 2015. The collection was written and produced by Ken Dornstein, whose brother was killed within the assault. Mr. Dornstein realized that Mr. Mas’ud was being held in a Libyan jail and even obtained photos of him as a part of his investigation.

“If there’s one particular person nonetheless alive who may inform the story of the bombing of Flight 103, and put to relaxation many years of unanswered questions on how precisely it was carried out — and why — it’s Mr. Mas’ud,” Mr. Dornstein wrote in an e mail after studying Mr. Mas’ud would lastly be prosecuted in the USA. “The query, I suppose, is whether or not he’s lastly ready to talk.”

After Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, Libya’s chief, was ousted from energy, Mr. Mas’ud confessed to the bombing in 2012, telling a Libyan regulation enforcement official that he was behind the assault. As soon as investigators realized concerning the confession in 2017, they interviewed the Libyan official who had elicited it, resulting in prices.

Regardless that extradition would enable Mr. Mas’ud to face trial, authorized consultants have expressed doubts about whether or not his confession, obtained in jail in war-torn Libya, can be admissible as proof.

Mr. Mas’ud, who was born in Tunisia however has Libyan citizenship, was the third particular person charged within the bombing. Two others, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, have been charged in 1991, however American efforts to prosecute them ran aground when Libya declined to ship them to the USA or Britain to face trial.

As a substitute, the Libyan authorities agreed to a trial within the Netherlands underneath Scottish regulation. Mr. Fhimah was acquitted and Mr. al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to life in jail.

In 2009, Scottish officers launched Mr. al-Megrahi as a result of he had prostate most cancers, regardless of the strenuous objections of the households of the victims and of American officers, together with President Barack Obama. Mr. al-Megrahi died in 2012; his household posthumously appealed his conviction in Scotland, however final 12 months a panel of judges refused to overturn it.

Prosecutors say that Mr. Mas’ud performed a key position within the bombing, touring to Malta and delivering the suitcase that contained the bomb used within the assault. In Malta, Mr. Megrahi and Mr. Fhimah instructed Mr. Mas’ud to set the timer on the system so it could blow up whereas the airplane was within the air the following day, prosecutors stated.

On the morning of Dec. 21, 1988, Mr. Megrahi and Mr. Fhimah met Mr. Mas’ud on the airport in Malta, the place he turned over the suitcase. Prosecutors stated Mr. Fhimah put the suitcase on a conveyor belt, in the end ending up on Pan Am Flight 103.

Mr. Mas’ud’s title surfaced twice in 1988, even earlier than the bombing came about. In October, a Libyan defector instructed the C.I.A. he had seen Mr. Mas’ud on the Malta airport with Mr. Megrahi, saying the pair had handed by on a terrorist operation. Malta served as a main launching level for Libya to provoke such assaults, the informant instructed the company. That December, the day earlier than the Pan Am bombing, the informant instructed the C.I.A. that the pair had once more handed by Malta. Practically one other 12 months handed earlier than the company requested the informant concerning the bombing.

However investigators by no means pursued Mr. Mas’ud in earnest till Mr. Megrahi’s trial years later, just for the Libyans to insist that Mr. Mas’ud didn’t exist. Mr. Megrahi additionally claimed he didn’t know Mr. Mas’ud.

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