Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland
A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed — 243 passengers, 16 crew, and 11 people on the ground — in what remains Britain's deadliest terrorist attack. (File/AFP)
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Updated 24 November 2020

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland

Lockerbie bomber appeal starts in Scotland
  • Convicted bomber Al-Megrahi's family claim the US and UK governments have “lived a monumental lie for 31 years.”
  • It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group

GLASGOW: The family of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Mohmet Al-Megrahi on Tuesday began a posthumous appeal in Scotland hoping to overturn the former Libyan intelligence officer’s conviction for downing a Pan Am flight in 1988, killing 270 people.
Lawyer Claire Mitchell told five judges in Edinburgh that “no reasonable jury, properly directed, could have returned the verdict that it did.”
The case was referred to Scotland’s highest criminal court by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) in March on grounds a possible miscarriage of justice may have occurred.
The SCCRC said there were grounds an “unreasonable verdict” was returned in that it could not be proved Megrahi bought the suitcase containing the bomb that was loaded onto the flight.
It also highlighted “non-disclosure” of evidence to Megrahi’s defense team.
Megrahi is the only person convicted of bombing Pan Flight 103, which was blown up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it flew from London to New York on December 21, 1988.
Three Scottish judges sitting at a special court in the Netherlands jailed him for life in 2001, recommending he serve at least 27 years.
He was released from a Scottish prison on health grounds in 2009 and returned to Libya, where he maintained his innocence until his death in 2012.
A total of 270 people from 21 countries were killed, including 11 people on the ground, in what remains Britain’s worst terrorist attack.
But Megrahi’s family maintain there are widespread doubts about his conviction.
A successful appeal would vindicate their belief the US and UK governments had “lived a monumental lie for 31 years” by imprisoning an innocent man and punishing Libya’s people, they said.
Lawyer Aamer Anwar said before the appeal began that he had spoken to Megrahi’s son, Ali, who was eight years old when his father stood trial.
“The Megrahis regard their father as the 271st victim of Lockerbie,” he said.
“Finally there is hope that we are coming to the end of a very long journey in nearly 32 years of their struggle for truth and justice.”
Megrahi’s first appeal was dismissed in 2002 and a second abandoned after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
Five judges including Scotland’s most senior jurist, Lord Justice General Colin Sutherland, are hearing the case, which is due to last until Friday with a ruling at a later date.
The family’s legal team are taking part remotely from Glasgow.

It has been widely claimed that the bombing was ordered by Iran and carried out by a Syrian-based Palestinian group in retaliation for a US Navy strike on an Iranian Airbus six months earlier in which 290 people died.
Late last Friday, the High Court upheld a secrecy order signed in August by UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab to withhold intelligence documents related to the case on grounds of national security.
The documents are thought to allege a Jordanian intelligence agent within the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC) built the bomb.
The PFLP-GC has been designated a terrorist group by several countries, including Britain and the United States.
Lawyers acting for the Megrahi family believe the documents are central to their appeal, which is backed by some of the victims’ families.
They also said they would disclose “significant material about the role of individuals, nations and their politicians” at the end of the appeal.
“There can never be a time limit on justice or the truth emerging,” said Anwar.
In 2008, then-foreign secretary David Miliband also refused to release the papers before Megrahi’s second appeal.


Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try
A view of Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit, with a rocket underneath the wing of a modified Boeing 747 jetliner, during test launch of its high-altitude launch system for satellites from Mojave, California, U.S. January 17, 2021. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 min 32 sec ago

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try

Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reaches space on 2nd try
  • The rocket’s upper stage coasted for a period, reignited to circularize the orbit and then deployed the nine CubeSats

LOS ANGELES: Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit reached space on Sunday, eight months after the first demonstration flight of its air-launched rocket system failed, the company said.
A 70-foot-long (21.34-meter-long) LauncherOne rocket was released from beneath the wing of a Boeing 747 carrier aircraft off the coast of Southern California, ignited moments later and soared toward space.
The two-stage rocket carried a cluster of very small satellites known as CubeSats developed and built as part of a NASA educational program involving US universities.
The launch occurred after the Boeing 747-400 took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the desert north of Los Angeles and flew out over the Pacific Ocean to a drop point beyond the Channel Islands.
“According to telemetry, LauncherOne has reached orbit!” Virgin Orbit tweeted later. “Everyone on the team who is not in mission control right now is going absolutely bonkers.”
The rocket’s upper stage coasted for a period, reignited to circularize the orbit and then deployed the nine CubeSats.
The flight developments were announced on social media. The launch was not publicly livestreamed.
Virgin Orbit, based in Long Beach, California, is part of a wave of companies targeting the launch market for increasingly capable small satellites, which may range in sizes comparable to a toaster on up to a home refrigerator.
Competitor Rocket Lab, also headquartered in Long Beach, has deployed 96 payloads in 17 launches of its Electron rocket from a site in New Zealand. Another of its rockets was nearing launch Sunday.
Virgin Orbit touts the flexibility of its capability to begin its missions by using airports around the globe.
Virgin Orbit attempted its first demonstration launch in May 2020.
The rocket was released and ignited but only briefly flew under power before it stopped thrusting. The lost payload was only a test satellite.
The company later said an investigation determined there was a breach in a high-pressure line carrying cryogenic liquid oxygen to the first-stage combustion chamber.
Virgin Orbit is separate from Virgin Galactic, the company founded by Branson to carry passengers on suborbital hops in which they will experience the sensations and sights of spaceflight.
Virgin Galactic expects to begin commercial operations this year in southern New Mexico.