High Alert: New Year's Under Attack?(12/27/99)
Terrorism in America (8/25/98)
Coverage of the Africa embassy bombings (8/12/98)
What makes a terrorist? (8/15/97)
Terrorists to Justice
The trial of two Libyans accused of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 has come to a close with a split verdict.
A special court of Scottish judges found one of the accused, Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, guilty of murder.
Judges sentenced al-Megrahi to life imprisonment and recommended he serve a minimum of 20 years. Scotland doesn't have a death penalty.
The other accused man was found innocent, because there was little evidence that he was with al-Megrahi at the time.
The decision brings a mixed sense of justice for the families of the 270 people who were killed, many of them Americans.
It has been pretty tricky bringing the suspected terrorists to justice. Especially when they live in a country that doesn't want to cooperate -- the "rogue state" of Libya.
What is a Rogue State?
"Rogue" (which means "a scoundrel" or "dishonest person") has become a popular way for American politicians to describe nations that let terrorists live and practice there. Rogue states also threaten their neighbors or try to get weapons of mass destruction, like nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
Iraq, Libya, North Korea, and Iran have all been called rogue states. However, the U.S. State Department recently decided that this label may be counter-productive, and only serve to perpetuate problems. Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright decided last year that these nations should now be called "states of concern."
But the United States still treats these nations as outcasts by breaking off relations, forbidding U.S. citizens to visit or do business there and banning trade.
Other countries often follow the lead of the U.S. -- but not always.
A Plane Goes Down in 1988
The Lockerbie trial is about an American plane that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. The plane was on the way from London to New York when a bomb went off, breaking the plane into thousands of pieces. Two-thirds of the people who died were American citizens, 44 were British and the others came from more than 20 different countries.
Investigators think the bomb was hidden in a suitcase that was placed on the plane in Malta, a small island off the coast of Libya.
The U.S. and British governments believe Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah blew up the jet on orders from Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gadhafi (pronounced kah-DAH-fee). The two men were charged with murder and conspiracy. American investigators claim they are professional Libyan spies.
Many believed the trial would last up to two years. Click here for a timeline of the case.
The British and American governments spent the last decade investigating the crash in 20 countries and gathered quite a bit of information. In 85 days of hearings, the court heard 235 witnesses.
The Libyan defense called three witnesses. They tried to suggest that the culprit was Iran or a Syrian-based group called the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but lacked evidence.
The U.S. And Libya: Bitter Enemies
The U.S. And Libya have been enemies for a long time.
During the 1980s they took turns attacking each other, and the U.S. accused Gadhafi of promoting terrorism around the world.
In April 1986, President Reagan ordered the bombing of two cities in Libya, including the country's capital, Tripoli. Dozens of civilians were killed, including Gadhafi's two-year-old adopted daughter. Two of his sons were injured although Gadhafi was unhurt. Some people thought the real goal of the U.S. was to kill Gadhafi himself.
The American attack on Libya was a direct response to the bombing of a disco in West Germany a few weeks earlier that killed two American servicemen.
Since then, the United States has accused Libya of providing money and training facilities for terrorist groups. Libyan terrorists, including Gadhafi's brother-in-law, are thought to be responsible for blowing up a French plane in 1989 and killing 170 people.
The United Nations placed arms sanctions on Libya in 1992.
Some countries and organizations have maintained relations with Libya. The European Union carries on political and economic business with the country, which is rich in oil and gas.
Some countries are warming up to Libya because that country has taken responsibility for some past crimes. Libya recently offered France $31 million for the plane bombing. Libyan leaders also took responsibility for the fatal shooting of a British policewoman outside the Libyan Embassy in London in 1984.
Although the U.S. And Britain identified the two men way back in 1991, it took nine years to convince Gadhafi to hand them over for trial. With help from the United Nations, they finally struck a deal in 1999. The two suspects were held in a Scottish prison for over a year as they awaited trial.
Since American and British feelings about the crash are so strong, Gadhafi would only agree to hold the trial in a neutral country. Scotland, a part of Great Britain and the location of the crash, set up a court in the Netherlands just for this case. Also, Gadhafi didn't trust a British jury to judge al-Megrahi and Fhimah fairly, so Scotland agreed that a panel of three Scottish judges would decide the verdict.
The trial began in May, in a specially built $18 million courtroom with bulletproof glass. The trial itself cost about $80, mostly paid by Britain.
An interesting thing about Scottish law is that it has three possible verdicts: guilty, not guilty, and not proven. To get a guilty verdict, British lawyers had to make extra sure they could prove without a doubt that the Libyans planted a bomb on the plane.
A Mixed Verdict
President Bush called the verdict "a victory for an international effort," but said the United States will maintain a hard line against Libya.
The White House says sanctions against Libya won't end simply because it turned over the two suspects. Libya must meet other requirements, the statement says, including compensating victims' families and accepting the responsibility for the terrorist attack.
What made Libya finally agree to hand over the two men?
Libya has been hurt since 1992 by the United Nations embargo. The embargo, or ban, prevented air travel to Libya, sales of spare parts for planes, weapons, and important oil drilling equipment. Libyan leaders estimate the embargo has cost them $33 billion over the last eight years.
As part of the deal to hand over the suspects for trial, the United Nations agreed to end the embargo last year.
What do the Families Think?
This verdict will help heal many of the wounds caused by the deaths of family members, friends and loved ones on Pan Am Flight 103.
Daniel Cohen, who lost his 20-year-old daughter, said he was happier than he thought he would be. "[Convicting] both [suspects] would have been better, but the important thing is that the Libyan government has been indicted in this thing," he said.
But to others, it seems like two men are taking the rap for Libyan leader Gadhafi, who may have ordered the bombing.
Many of the families are planing to sue the Libyan government in civil court, asking for more than $10 billion in damages.
What do you think? Is the trial and the justice process fair? If Colonel Gadhafi gave the order, should he be on trial? How should we deal with countries who allow terrorists to live freely?
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