Man Who Allegedly Made Lockerbie Bomb Won't Face Death Penalty

Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is in US custody
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 11, 2022 8:00 AM CST
Updated Dec 13, 2022 1:24 AM CST
Man Who Allegedly Made Lockerbie Bomb Is Caught
A police officer walks by the nose of Pan Am flight 103 in a field near the town of Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988.   (AP Photo/Martin Cleaver, File)
UPDATE Dec 13, 2022 1:24 AM CST

The suspect in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing who is now in US custody will not face the death penalty. Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi appeared in court Monday, but proceedings were delayed until he gets legal representation, so he did not enter any plea, the BBC reports. He rejected the offer of a free public defender. Prosecutors said at the hearing that they would seek a maximum sentence of life imprisonment, because the death penalty was not a legally available punishment for the charges involved at the time of the alleged crime, the Washington Post reports. The same charges would be, in the current day, punishable by death.

Dec 11, 2022 8:00 AM CST

US and Scottish authorities said Sunday that the Libyan man suspected of making the bomb that destroyed a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 is in US custody. Scotland’s Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service said in a statement that "the families of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing have been told that the suspect Abu Agela Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi is in US custody," per the AP. The US Justice Department confirmed the information, adding that “he is expected to make his initial appearance in the US District Court for the District of Columbia.” It gave no information on how Mas'ud came to be in custody.

Pan Am flight 103, traveling from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing all 259 people aboard the plane and another 11 on the ground. It remains the deadliest terror attack on British soil. The Justice Department announced new charges against Mas'ud in December 2020, on the 32nd anniversary of the bombing. In 2001, former Libyan intelligence officer Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing the flight. He is to date the only person convicted over the attack. He lost one appeal and abandoned another before being freed in 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was terminally ill with cancer. He died in Libya in 2012, still protesting his innocence.

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A breakthrough in the investigation came when US officials in 2017 received a copy of an interview that Mas'ud, a longtime explosives expert for Libya’s intelligence service, had given to Libyan law enforcement in 2012 after being taken into custody following the collapse of the regime of the country’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. In that interview, US officials said, Mas'ud admitted building the bomb in the Pan Am attack and working with two other conspirators to carry it out. He also said the operation was ordered by Libyan intelligence and that Gadhafi thanked him afterward. While Mas'ud is now the third Libyan intelligence official charged in the US in connection with the Lockerbie bombing, he would be the first to stand trial in an American courtroom.

(More Lockerbie stories.)

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