In December 1988, I was living in the United Kingdom when the searing news of the Lockerbie bombing exploded into the global consciousness.
With 270 victims, Lockerbie was at once the worst act of terrorism on British soil and the most heinous act of terrorism yet perpetrated against Americans. Twelve years later, Lockerbie would produce one of the most expensive trials in world history (75 million pounds sterling, circa $120 million) and what has become a highly contentious verdict.
At the time of the tragedy, an extremist group of Palestinians backed by Iran was selected as the primary suspect, but two years later when Saddam Hussein seized Kuwait the spotlight of suspicion shifted to Libya. Bush, Sr. needed Iranian support for the invasion of Kuwait – a nation courted assiduously by the Reagan-Bush administration through the notorious Iran-Contra Scandal and beyond.
Under the crushing weight of draconian sanctions, Libya eventually realized the wisdom of producing members of its own intelligence apparatus who could help them engineer the lifting of crippling trade restrictions. In the course of time, two hapless Libyans: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah would be extradited and sent to an obscure US military base called, Camp Zeist, where they would be placed on trial. On the 31st of January 2001 over twelve years after the tragedy shook the civilized world, a panel consisting of three Scottish judges convicted Megrahi and acquited Fhimah. Megrahi received a life sentence intended to compel him to serve at least 27 years in prison.