Trial’s Tacked-on Ending

The single conviction reached in the trial of two Libyans accused of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 came as a great relief to the many U.K. commentators who followed the case. They generally accept the weight of the circumstantial evidence that led to the jailing for life of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. But most seem convinced that the trial did not fully explain who was behind the December 1988 bombing of the Pan Am airliner, which crashed on the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, killing all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground. Megrahi’s alleged accomplice was acquitted.

“Nobody believes Megrahi acted alone,” wrote columnist Ian Bell in the independent, moderate Sunday Herald of Glasgow (Feb. 4). “Nevertheless, three Scottish judges ...refused to accept that anyone other than Libyans played a part. Will that do?” No, answered an editorial in the same paper: “Too many questions have still to be answered. Only a full international inquiry will do that.”

In his column for the right-wing Sunday Telegraph of London (Feb. 4), veteran overseas correspondent John Simpson said that Libya was the target because other possible culprits—Syria and Iran—were too big to tangle with: “Libya was a tin-pot little place which had no real friends and no great importance in the world.” Simpson concluded that “the U.S. and British governments are regard the trial at Camp Zeist as the end of the matter.”

In the centrist Independent on Sunday (Feb. 4), longtime Middle East observer Robert Fisk asked pointedly: “Where is the bloody motive?” The prosecution pointed to the U.S. air raid on Baghdad in 1986, but surely the American naval downing of a civilian Iranian airliner only six months before Lockerbie makes more sense, Fisk wrote. “The court’s judgment...makes no mention of this. Thus, it seems, the Libyans were behind the Lockerbie bombing because, they were, well, Libyans.”

“We may wonder if the process has moved too glibly toward a particularly shallow version of what Americans like to call closure,” wrote author William McIlvanney in the independent Scotland on Sunday (Feb. 4). “There is the smell of scapegoat here.”