Lockerbie bombing suspect makes first appearance in U.S. court

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, suspected of making the bomb that destroyed a passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 that killed 190 Americans, made his first appearance in U.S. federal court on Monday.

When Mas’ud entered the federal courtroom, he saw the families of his alleged victims face-to-face. Thirty-four years ago, in December 1988, Pan Am flight 103, which was traveling from London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie, killing all 259 people aboard the plane and 11 on the ground in the deadliest terror attack on British soil.

At his initial appearance in court, Mas’ud, who walks with a limp, wore an Alexandria Sheriff’s prison uniform and a white mask. He removed the mask during the hearing. Mas’ud communicated with Magistrate Judge Robin Meriweather and a public defender from Virginia through an interpreter. The public defender said Mas’ud had informed her that he wanted to hire an attorney of his own and asked for a week to do so.

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. charged with three counts: two counts of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and a count of destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by means of an explosive, resulting in death. The indictment came two years after Mas’ud, a 71-year-old Libyan national who was born in Tunisia, was first accused of taking part in the terror attack.

Each charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison or death, but prosecutors said in court they would not seek the death penalty because it wasn’t allowed under federal law at the time the alleged crime was committed.

Mas’ud will be detained pending a hearing later this month. In court on Monday, prosecutors urged the judge to keep the alleged bomb designer behind bars, saying “countless families have never fully recovered” from his actions.