Lockerbie verdict due tomorrow

Two Libyans accused of causing the Lockerbie bombing in which 270 people died will hear their fate tomorrow.

The three trial judges returned to the special Scottish court sitting at Camp Zeist, Holland today and announced they would deliver their verdict on Wednesday.

Presiding judge Lord Sutherland said: "We do not propose to issue a verdict today. We are however able to inform you that we will be in a position to do so tomorrow."

He said that because of security considerations the court would convene later than usual in the morning - 10am UK time. The court then adjourned, having sat for less than one minute.

The judges retired to consider their verdict nearly two weeks ago after evidence in the long-running case closed.

They have heard 84 days of evidence from 230 witnesses - a total of 10,232 pages of court transcripts covering more than three million words.

The judges have to decide whether the two men accused of masterminding the disaster are guilty or innocent of mass murder.

Under Scots law they also have the option of a third verdict - "not proven" - which has the same effect as a verdict of not guilty.

Two Libyans, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, 48, and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 44, deny causing the disaster by planting a bomb on the plane.

A total of 270 people died when New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the skies over Lockerbie on December 21 1988.

The prosecution claims it has proved "beyond reasonable doubt" that the men in the dock are guilty.

It says the evidence clearly shows that Al Megrahi and Fhimah worked together to plant an unaccompanied suitcase containing a bomb packed inside a radio cassette recorder on board a Frankfurt-bound Air Malta flight at Malta's Luqa airport.

The suitcase was tagged for transfer at Frankfurt to join doomed Flight 103 destined for New York via London Heathrow.

The bomb exploded after the plane had left Heathrow and was about to head out over the Atlantic at 7.03pm on December 21, causing the catastrophic break-up of the 747 aircraft.

But defence counsel have dismissed the evidence against their clients as "unreliable" and "circumstantial" and have urged the judge to acquit them.

They also claim that Palestinian terrorists could have planted the bomb.

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