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Extension Given in Lockerbie Trial

Abdel Basset Megrahi/AP
Abdel Basset Ali Al-Megrahi. (AP)
Fhimah/AP
Lamen Khalifa Fhimah. (AP)

By Anthony Deutsch
Associated Press Writer
Monday, June 7, 1999; 7:45 a.m. EDT

CAMP ZEIST, Netherlands (AP) -- Lawyers for two Libyans suspected of planting the bomb that blew up a Pan Am jet over Scotland in 1988 won a six-month extension today to prepare their defense.

Scottish High Court Judge Lord Sutherland agreed to grant the extension after meeting privately with the suspects and their attorneys. His ruling means the bombing trial won't get under way until Feb. 4, 2000, at the earliest, and could be further delayed if the lawyers ask for a second extension, which is permissible under Scottish law.

Suspected former Libyan intelligence agents Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were handed over in April for trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands. The men, who have proclaimed their innocence, they face up to life imprisonment in Scotland's highest-security jail if convicted.

The pair issued no statements today.

The trial will take place under heavy security at Camp Zeist, a former U.S. airbase near Utrecht in the central Netherlands, 40 miles southeast of Amsterdam.

When the trial does get under way, it will be the first time a Scottish court convenes outside of Scotland. Under a treaty with the Dutch, Camp Zeist will be considered Scottish soil for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last a year or more.

The two suspects are charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and violations of international aviation safety laws in the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the tiny village of Lockerbie.

A bomb planted in a suitcase aboard the jumbo jet killed all 259 passengers and crew, mostly Americans and Britons, and 11 people on the ground.

The Netherlands was chosen as an alternative trial venue after Libya argued that the men would not receive a fair trial in the United States or Scotland.

© Copyright 1999 The Associated Press

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