London: US and Libyan authorities may have violated due process in the arrest and extradition of alleged Lockerbie bombing suspect Abu Agela Masud Kheir Al-Marimi, Human Rights Watch has warned.
The US had long pursued Al-Marimi over his alleged role in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, which killed 270 people, including 190 US citizens.
Authorities in December last year announced that Al-Marimi had been taken into custody and was facing prosecution following a handover from the Libyan Government of National Unity.
Al-Marimi — a former official in the Muammar Qaddafi government — was kidnapped on Nov. 17 in an armed raid led by GNU-allied forces in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
When his family complained over the kidnapping, local police refused to record an official complaint, with relatives making contact with local militias and the General Prosecutor’s Office to discover his whereabouts.
GNU Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said that his government worked with the US to extradite Al-Marimi, but judicial authorities in the North African country have criticized the handover as illegal, noting that Libya does not share an extradition treaty with the US.
Al-Marimi’s family only discovered the full extent of his arrest and extradition almost a month later, when social media posts surfaced showing the Libyan appearing in a US court on Dec. 12.
He is the third Libyan national in the last decade to be transported to the US over terrorism allegations and now faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
The legal basis for the US claims against Al-Marimi appears to center around confessions he made in 2012 to a Libyan interrogator, HRW said.
The US Justice Department in a 2020 statement said that there is probable cause that Al-Marimi conspired with others, and aided and abetted them, in downing Pan Am Flight 103.
HRW urged the US to “uphold international fair trial standards” and “grant Al-Marimi access to his family members, including by promptly processing visas for them.”
US authorities “should also grant him the right to challenge his extradition,” the organization said.
Under Dbeibah, Libyan authorities must permit consular and family visits as well as effective legal counsel for Al-Marimi, HRW added.
Al-Marimi was previously held in custody in Libya, with HRW documenting the use of “torture, intimidation and other abuses” by the country’s authorities during the same period.
It has led to fears that Al-Marimi’s alleged confession may have been coerced, with the organization warning US authorities to avoid the use of forced confessions in prosecution.
Hanan Salah, associate Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said: “It appears that no Libyan court ordered or reviewed Al-Marimi’s transfer to the US, and he had no chance to appeal, raising serious due process concerns.
“The political impasse and chaos in Libya don’t allow US authorities to disregard violations of fundamental rights.
“Justice for the many victims of Pan Am Flight 103 risks being tainted unless the US and GNU governments clarify the legal basis for Al-Marimi’s transfer to US custody.”