US Attorney General Bill Barr has announced new criminal charges against an alleged bombmaker involved in the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing which killed 270 people.
Abu Agila Masud, a former Libyan intelligence officer, is accused of assembling a bomb that blew up Pan Am flight 103 as it passed over the small town of Lockerbie, Scotland, en route from London to New York.
The charges unsealed by Barr on Monday came on the 32nd anniversary of the terror attack and marked the first US trial related to the case.
Masud is the third person to face charges in the attack, after Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and airline employee Lamin Khalifa Fhimah were charged in Scotland nearly 30 years ago. Al-Megrahi was convicted while Fhimah was found not guilty in 2001.
It was Barr who announced the charges against the first two suspects in 1991, saying at the time: ‘This investigation is by no means over.’
On Monday, Barr finally got to cap off perhaps the most extensive terror probe of his career with the indictment against Masud.
‘As to all the victims and the families, we cannot take away your pain from your loss, but we can seek justice for you,’ he said in a statement.
‘Our message to other terrorists around the world is this – you will not succeed – if you attack Americans, no matter where you are, no matter how long it takes, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.’
The US brought new charges against alleged Lockerbie bombmaker Abu Agila Masud (pictured) on Monday
Attorney General Bill Barr announced the charges against Masud on Monday, the 32nd anniversary of the bombing
243 passengers and 16 crew, 190 of them Americans heading home for the holidays, were killed when a bomb exploded in the hold of Pan Am Flight 103 in the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, showering the town in debris (pictured)
Masud, an alleged bombmaker for late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, is currently being held by Libyan authorities and faces extradition to the United States to face charges over the atrocity in federal court.
He was first arrested in Libya after the collapse of the Gaddafi regime in 2012 and has since been serving a separate 10-year sentence for bombmaking.
Barr said the US charges are based in part on an interview Libyan authorities conducted with Masud after his arrest and provided to the Department of Justice.
The attorney general, who is set to leave office on Wednesday, said the US will ‘work closely with our Scottish counterparts’ to ensure that Masud answers for his role in the bombing.
‘It is my hope that the Libyan authorities will allow Masud to be tried for this crime and will provide the support and witnesses necessary to bring him to justice,’ Barr said.
The majority of the victims in the Lockerbie bombing were from the US and Gaddafi accepted Libya’s responsibility at the time, although he maintained he did not give orders to carry it out.
Barr announced initial charges against two other Lockerbie suspects in 1991 (pictured)
Masud is accused of having assembled the bomb that blew up the plane
Pan Am flight 103 was en route from London to New York when it exploded, with large sections of the plane crashing into the small residential Scottish town of Lockerbie
Barr told President Trump of his resignation last week but asked to delay his departure by a week to announce the new Lockerbie charges, sources told CNN.
When Barr served under George H. W. Bush in the Justice Department, he announced charges against al Megrahi and Fhimah in 1991.
The two men linked to Libyan intelligence were accused of placing the explosives in a portable radio and cassette player inside a suitcase on the plane.
After protracted negotiations, the pair were tried by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands.
Megrahi was jailed for life in 2001 but was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after he was diagnosed with cancer. He died in 2012.
Fhimah was found not guilty but investigators have long believed that Megrahi did not act alone.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was the only man ever convicted over the crime. He was sentenced to life in jail in Scotland, but released in 2009 on compassionate grounds while suffering terminal cancer (pictured). He died in Libya in 2012
Masud is currently in jail in Libya, serving a 10-year sentenced handed down by the US-backed government for being a bomb-maker who made devices used to target those who opposed Gaddafi before his death at the hands of rebels.
US officials say conversations are underway with Libya to take custody of Masud and Scottish authorities, with negotiations going more smoothly in this round of charges.
Barr has long been determined to seek justice for the Lockerbie attack and the US response.
Three decades of doubt: 30 years later there are still unanswered questions over Lockerbie
December 21, 1988
Pan Am Flight 103 from Frankfurt to Detroit, via London and New York, blows up over Lockerbie in Scotland. A total of 270 people died
US Attorney General Bill Barr announces charges against Libyans Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khailifa Fhimah of the bombing. However, Libyan authorities deny involvement
MPs demand an inquiry after US intelligence suggests Iran was behind the bombing, instead of Libya
Megrahi was convicted of mass murder while Fhimah is found not guilty
The UN lifts sanctions on Libya. Blame was accepted in Tripoli and the government compensates families of the victims
Megrahi is freed after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. He did not die until 2012
A review of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s conviction for the bombing is to be carried out by the Scottish Criminal Cases Commission
The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission says there was no criminality in the handling of the Megrahi case, as his lawyers had claimed
US Attorney General Bill Barr announces new charges against a third suspect, Abu Agila Masud, accused of assembling the bomb
At a memorial in 2019, he said ‘nothing was more important to me’ than investigating the bombing during his first term as attorney general.
He said at the Arlington Ceremony last year: ‘I must say that, to this day, I am not satisfied with our country’s overall response to the attack.
‘I never thought that putting two Libyan intelligence officers on trial should be the sum and substance of our response.’
The attack sparked global investigations and sanctions against Libya, which ultimately surrendered intelligence officials wanted in the attacks for prosecution in Europe.
Masud faces charges of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle of interstate commerce resulting in death.
Authorities in the US claim he traveled to Malta ahead of the bombing, where he constructed the bomb and filled a suitcase with clothing before it was placed on the flight.
The new charges are said to be based on a confession made by Masud to Libyan authorities in 2012.
The fresh charges also come after Megrahi’s son launched a third appeal against his father’s conviction at the High Court in Edinburgh last month.
The appeal was lodged after the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred the case to the High Court in March, ruling a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
Judges then granted his son, Ali al-Megrahi, permission to proceed with the appeal in relation to the argument that ‘no reasonable jury’ could have returned the verdict the court did, and on the grounds of non-disclosure of documents by the Crown.
In a statement issued before the hearing started, family lawyer Aamer Anwar, who represents the family, said: ‘It has been a long journey in the pursuit for truth and justice.
‘When Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie nearly 32 years ago, killing 270 people from 21 countries, it remains the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed in the UK.
‘Since then the case of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the crime, has been described as the worst miscarriage of justice in British legal history.’
He added: ‘The reputation of the Scottish criminal justice system has suffered internationally because of widespread doubts about the conviction of Mr al-Megrahi.
Freed Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi (C-L) arrives with Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam (C-R) in Tripoli late on August 20, 2009
‘It is in the interests of justice that these doubts can be addressed; however, he was convicted in a Scottish court of law and that is the only appropriate place for his guilt or innocence to be determined.’
Megrahi’s first appeal against his conviction was refused by the High Court in 2002 and was referred back five years later following an SCCRC review.
He abandoned this second appeal in 2009, shortly before his release from prison on compassionate grounds while terminally ill with cancer.
Earlier this year lawyers for Megrahi demanded access to secret Government papers as they appeal against his conviction over the 1988 terror attack.
His family said it is ‘in the interest of justice’ that the defense get to see the two documents, which are covered by a public interest immunity certificate.
Mas’ud was a top bomb-maker for late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (pictured), reports claim. He is alleged to have assembled the device which blew up over Scotland in 1988
Victims, pictured, of the bombing included dozens of American college students
Who was Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi?
Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives
Former Libyian intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted of involvement in the Lockerbie bombing which claimed 270 lives.
Was jailed in 2001 for his role in the attack which brought down Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988, in what became the worst terrorist attack on British soil.
The Boeing 747 jet took off from London Heathrow airport around 30 minutes before it exploded as it cruised at 31,000 feet above the Scottish borders.
Al-Megrahi was convicted on the basis of evidence from Maltese shop owner Tony Gauci, who died in 2016 aged 75.
Mr Gauci ran a clothes shop in Swieqi, Malta, at the time of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 and claimed that Megrahi bought a piece of clothing found among the debris of the aircraft.
His evidence helped to secure the 2001 conviction of the former Libyan intelligence officer for the atrocity in which 270 people died, including 11 people on the ground. But some doubts were subsequently raised about Mr Gauci’s reliability.
Megrahi was the only person to have been convicted of the bombing over the south of Scotland on December 21 1988.
He was jailed for life but an investigation by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) led to a finding in 2007 of six grounds where it is believed a miscarriage of justice may have occurred, paving the way for a second appeal.
The Libyan dropped that appeal in 2009 before being released from jail on compassionate grounds due to his terminal prostate cancer. He died protesting his innocence in Libya in 2012.
The trial judgment detailed how the three judges were satisfied Megrahi had walked into Mr Gauci’s shop and bought items of clothing which ended up packed around the bomb that exploded in a suitcase on board the flight.
Al-Megrahi, pictured here following his release from prison on compassionate grounds in 2009 claimed he was innocent of the crime