20 years on: Lockerbie victims' group head talks to Wikinews

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Lockerbie memorial

On this day twenty years ago, a transatlantic airliner broke up in midair and came down onto the Scottish town of Lockerbie. All 259 people on board Pan Am Flight 103, and eleven people on the ground, lost their lives in what remains the worst air disaster in British history.

The disaster was an act of terrorism, caused by a bomb loaded on board. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, an intelligence officer from Libya, was convicted of 270 counts of murder for the bombing in 2001. Libya has since paid US$1.5 billion in compensation to the victims.

Today, Megrahi's legal campaign for freedom continues. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission granted him a second appeal, saying there may have been a miscarriage of justice. The terminally ill man will begin that appeal next year. Wikinews wrote to Mr Megrahi in prison but he did not respond.

One who does not believe in Megrahi's innocence is Kara Weipz. Her brother Richard Monetti lost his life in the bombing. Weipz, who now heads the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103 group, says she represents the large majority of victims' families from the United States when she says that they "believe that there were others who acted with Mr. Megrahi and should be held accountable also," when asked if she felt there was much still to learn about the events twenty years ago.

They have, she says, no sense at all that Megrahi may have been wrongly convicted; to the contrary she now has some closure from the trial. "The conviction has brought a sense of justice to the families. No we do not agree with the convict at all. We support the Crown office and the decisions of the Court," she told Wikinews.

We asked her if there were any differences between her version of events, and about her thoughts on potential issues with the investigation. "There is no difference between the truth as we see it and the official version of events. The facts are the facts, Mr. Megrahi is guilty," Weipz told Wikinews. "I don't believe there were any issues with the investigation. What bothers me is people with conspiracy theories that spew them as truths. The programs that have been run on TV recently call them conspiracy theories as well." Did the authorities let her down? "Not one bit. I am thankful for the Scottish Police and the FBI."

She also revealed that she was not concerned that people might have viewed compensation for the bombing, granted from Libya, as 'blood money'. "Calling it blood money is a misnomer. We entered into a civil trial. The outcome of a civil trial is a monetary one. We knew that since Libya was guilty that the outcome would be that they compensate the families. The only part that bothered me was [that] it was connected to the lifting of sanctions and removal from the State Sponsors Terrorism List. Our goal was to deter terrorism by making it expensive to kill innocent people."

One of the aims stated by the website of her victims' group is to maintain the memory of her loved ones; this she felt was still being done - "Absolutely!!!!" was what she told us. She says that the last twenty years have been hard, however: "While I miss my brother [every day], I live a healthy and productive life in his honor. Hard - yes, productive - yes."

Megrahi has not been in touch with Weipz, or with any of the other victims, she tells us. Refusing to be drawn into speculation, she tells us she has "no idea" what secret documents Megrahi's defense has been refused permission to see might contain - she has "never seen them" herself, so she does not know what they are.

She also did not feel that Megrahi should have been released upon his recent request on compassionate grounds owing to his terminal cancer, as "he is receiving the same medical treatment in prison as he would outside of prison. The Court didn't feel it was appropriate either." Wikinews also asked her if she believes the legal process generally has been fair to him over the years - "Yes, I believe it has been fair."

VictimsofPanAmFlight103.org states "we are committed to seeking the truth about this tragedy and keeping the memory of our loved ones alive." The final question Wikinews put to Kara Weipz was this: "Do you think we will ever know the truth?"

"I would love to say yes, but I don't think we will ever know the whole truth," she told us.


This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.