Gadaffi Says He'll Provide Proof To Challenge Lockerbie Verdict

July 7, 2008 - 8:09 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Media in the Arab world continued Friday to react to this week's verdict in the Lockerbie trial, an outcome Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi has vowed to up-end next week by providing evidence he says will prove that the man convicted of the airliner bombing is innocent.

A Scottish court in the Netherlands on Wednesday sentenced former Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi to a minimum of 20 years' imprisonment for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. His co-defendant, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was found not guilty and released.

Welcoming Fhimah home in Tripoli, Gadaffi said he possessed "proven evidence that [Megrahi] is innocent and I'll reveal the evidence on Monday.

He added that when he provided the proof, the Scottish judges would have no choice but to admit the truth, resign, or commit suicide.

Relatives of the Lockerbie victims dismissed Gadaffi's unexpected claims. In London, Jim Swire, a spokesman for British victims' families, said that the Libyan government had agreed in writing to Scottish proposals that the two Libyans be tried under Scottish law.

"That is what has now happened and therefore I think there's only a limited extent to which he [Gadaffi] can beef about it."

Newspapers across the Middle East continue to call for an immediate lift of the United Nations sanctions imposed on Libya in 1992. The measures were suspended in 1999 after Libya agreed to hand over Megrahi and Fhimah for trial, but Libya now wants them formally lifted.

The UAE's Al-Bayan said the sanctions "punished millions of innocent people for a crime they did not commit" while Al-Ittihad was also critical, accusing the United States and Britain of "blackmail" in their treatment of Libya.

An editorial in Qatar's Al-Raya newspaper said the U.N. had a "duty" to lift the sanctions since Libya had provided the court with full cooperation to bring about an end to the case. The paper urged the Security Council to view the case from a legal point of view and to avoid the "political influences of the United States and Britain."

In Dubai, the Khaleej Times said that while the 1999 suspension of sanctions had eased the hardship on ordinary Libyans, only a formal lifting would end the country's isolation.

But it said Libya must also prove the innocence that it claims. "The challenge for him [Gadaffi] is to take his argument to the court of international public opinion and prove his detractors wrong and their charges groundless."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa also called for an end to the sanctions, and said Egypt backed Libya's call for normal ties to be established with the rest of the world.

Both the U.S. and Britain - the two countries hardest hit by the bombing - have indicated this week that they expect Libya to do more before sanctions can be officially lifted. The two governments want Gadaffi to accept responsibility for the bombing, and pay compensation to the victims' families.

Apart from the U.N. sanctions, the United States also has its own unilateral sanctions in place, which predate the U.N. ones. Relatives of American victims have urged President Bush not to drop those sanctions.