On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103, a U.S. registered Boeing 747 en route from London, Heathrow Airport, to JFK Airport in New York, was destroyed when an improvised explosive device, concealed in an item of luggage, detonated in the cargo hold of the aircraft. This explosion resulted in the deaths of all 259 passengers and crew aboard, including 189 Americans, as well as 11 residents of the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
On November 13, 1991, agents of the Libyan government, Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi and Al Amin Khalfia Fhimah, “together with others unknown to the Grand Jury”, were indicted in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for Conspiracy to Destroy a Civil Aircraft of the United States, Kill Nationals of the United States, and on related substantive explosives charges. The following day, the Lord Advocate announced that al-Megrahi and Fhimah had been charged in Scotland with conspiracy and murder offenses.
On January 31, 2001, al-Megrahi was found guilty of the murder of all 270 victims on Pan Am Flight 103, in the air and on the ground in Lockerbie, by a panel of three High Court judges. He received the mandatory sentence of life imprisonment and was required to serve 27 years before becoming eligible to apply for parole. His co-accused, Fhimah was found not guilty and was flown to Tripoli, Libya. On March 14, 2002, al-Megrahi’s conviction was affirmed by a panel of five different Scottish High Court judges, and he was moved to Scotland to begin service of his sentence.
Following an application to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC), in June 2007, al-Megrahi was permitted to file a new appeal. While that appeal was pending, in September, 2008 al-Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. On August 20, 2009, based upon the advice of the Scottish Prison Medical Service that he had less than three months to live, and after al-Megrahi withdrew his appeal before the Court could rule, al-Megrahi’s application for compassionate release was granted by the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice. Including credit for time served in pre-trial detention, al-Megrahi had served slightly more than 10 years of his life sentence when he was released.
Believing that al-Megrahi and Fhimah did not act alone in causing a bomb to be loaded onto Pan Am Flight 103, the U.S. Department of State has authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of those responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the murders of the 270 victims.