Lockerbie verdict

CHURCH BELLS did not toll in Lockerbie, Scotland, after the conviction of a Libyan intelligence officer for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over that town in December 1988, killing 259 passengers and crew and 11 townsfolk.

The unanimous verdict of three Scottish judges, under Scottish law, sitting in a bit of the Netherlands proclaimed to be Scotland, brought no closure.


The conviction of one of two defendants implicates the Libyan regime of Col. Muammar el Kadafi in the eyes of victims' kin, the U.S. and British governments, but not in Libya's. The convicted terrorist, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, denies guilt and will appeal.

A civil trial can now begin in U.S. District Court in New York, with victims' families suing Libya. Investigations trying to link the convicted defendant to higher Libyan authorities will resume in Britain and the United States.


United Nations economic sanctions against Libya were suspended in 1999 after Libya turned the two defendants over for trial. Britain resumed diplomatic relations after Libya agreed to compensation for a 1984 shooting death in London.

But the United States in 1992 clamped unilateral sanctions on Libya which remain in force. Wednesday, the British and U.S. governments demanded Libya accept responsibility for Megrahi's action and compensate relatives.

Hope for Libya to comply rests on its agreement to compensate victims of the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Niger. Colonel Kadafi is seeking respectability and investment.

As a result of the Lockerbie conviction, confidence in international air travel goes up only a little. Heightened security procedures remain necessary.

The sentence of life in prison, with parole possible in 20 years, brings little satisfaction to victims' kin. But it will be used to argue against the scheduled U.S. execution of Timothy McVeigh, the American terrorist convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing.

The world is not made safe by the conviction of Megrahi, just a little less unsafe. If justice was not concluded, it was begun.