Washington, Dec 12 (EFE).- A Libyan intelligence operative who allegedly made the bomb that downed Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 was formally charged in a federal court in Washington DC on Monday with destroying the aircraft and causing the deaths of 270 people.
Prosecutors said they would not pursue the death penalty against Abu Agila Masud because that punishment was not legally available at the time the terrorist attack occurred.
Masud barely spoke during his initial court appearance, which took place nearly two years after the United States Justice Department made public a criminal complaint charging the suspect with “destruction of aircraft resulting in death and destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive resulting in death.”
Of the 270 victims of the civilian aircraft bombing, 190 were American and 43 were citizens of the United Kingdom.
Citizens from nearly a score of other countries also perished in the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing, which remains the deadliest single terrorist attack carried out on British soil.
After Masud did not enter a plea and said he needed more time to hire legal counsel, the court agreed to schedule a preliminary hearing for Dec. 27.
All of the 243 passengers and 16 crew members on board the flight from Frankfurt to Detroit (with stopovers in London and New York) were killed, while 11 other people in Lockerbie died when falling debris from the Boeing 747-121 landed in a residential street.
Masud, who was extradited from Libya over the weekend, is considered the “third conspirator” in the bombing and is the first to appear in a US courtroom.
Two other Libyan intelligence officials were tried over the terrorist attack in the Netherlands under Scottish law, one of whom – Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison. The other defendant was acquitted.
Al-Megrahi was released eight years later on compassion grounds after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He died in 2012, always maintaining his innocence. EFE