Abu Agila Masud Al-Mariami, who is accused of making the bomb which destroyed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie 34 years ago, has been transferred into United States (US) custody. This extradition has had a very dividing impact on the Libyan political, social and public opinions with differing thoughts on the handover of a Libyan citizen to a country with which Libya has no extradition treaties.
The BBC reported on December 11 that the US announced charges against Masud two years ago, alleging that he had played a key role in the bombing on 21 December, 1988.
The US embassy also explained on December 21 that the transfer of Masud to its custody followed INTERPOL publishing a Red Notice for him in January 2022 requesting all INTERPOL member states to locate and arrest the defendant for the purpose of transfer to the US.
The Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, also confirmed that the INTERPOL wanted Masud, saying in a televised statement that the transfer was lawful because “Masud was responsible for the bombing”.
The US embassy in Libya said that the transfer of Abu Agila Masud to US custody to stand trial on charges related to the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie was lawful and conducted in cooperation with Libyan authorities.
It also reaffirmed that the US is not re-opening the agreement concluded in 2008 between with the then-Libyan government that settled “US and US nationals’ claims against Libya arising out of certain terrorist incidents including the attack on Pan Am 103.”
“The agreement obliged the US to end existing suits for financial compensation in US courts arising from incidents and precludes any future suits, and in no way restricts US legal cooperation or has any bearing on criminal charges against those responsible for the attack.” The embassy added.
Masud’s family, specifically his nephew Abdelmonem Al-Marimi, has told the BBC Abu Agila had nothing to do with the 1988 bombing.
“This is a trumped charge. I am confident my uncle has nothing to do with this. He is a well-behaved man. He is vehemently religious and he fears Allah. He will never think of killing anyone.” The nephew said.
An FBI criminal complaint against Masud alleges that he confessed to making the bomb when he was being held in custody in Libya in 2012.
What Now for Masud?
Masud appeared in a Federal Court in Washington a day after it was confirmed he was in the hands of American authorities. He refused to speak before having a defense lawyer present.
Dbeibah said his government would provide Masud, whom he called a dual Libyan-Tunisian national, with defense lawyers at the expense of the state.
The public opinion was divided on the case as many analysts thought the move was unlawful and that Masud was not taken into US custody in a peaceful manner, blaming the GNU and Foreign Ministry for the “treason” they had committed against one of their own fellow citizens to gain US aid.
Others see the matter from a different angle. They compare what happened to Masud to other incidents of extradition from Libya to the US, especially Abu Khittala, who is under US trial up until now. They also remind of the transfer of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, who was the main Lockerbie suspect, by Moammar Gaddafi to the Netherlands to face terrorism charges. Al-Megrahi was jailed for life but was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government in 2009 after being diagnosed with cancer. He died in Libya in 2012.