Prosecutors told the man accused of crafting the bomb used in the deadliest terror attack ever to take place in the United Kingdom that they will not push for the death penalty if he is convicted.
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi, a Libyan intelligence operative, appeared in a federal court in Washington, D.C., on Monday in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 that killed 270 people, according to the BBC. Mas’ud’s alleged bomb detonated onboard the doomed plane as it was flying over Lockerbie, Scotland, en route to New York, downing the flight and killing everyone on board as well as 11 local residents on the ground.
Mas’ud is the first person to be tried in the United States of a crime related to the 1988 terror attack. Family members of some of the victims of the downed flight appeared in the courtroom. Flight 103’s victims came from 21 different countries. Of the 270 killed, 190 were Americans.
Officials extradited Mas’ud to the U.S. over the weekend from Libya where he was being held on charges in an unrelated case. It is not clear how Mas’ud ended up in U.S. authorities’ hands from Libya, according to The Washington Post.
Mas’ud is facing three charges in connection with the terror attack, including destruction of an aircraft resulting in death. Prosecutor Erik Kenerson told the court that he would not be seeking the death penalty in the case, despite it being an accepted sentence for the crimes Mas’ud is facing. In 1988 when the crime was committed, the death penalty would not have been a recommended sentence, Kenerson said, so he would not seek it in 2022, according to ABC News.
“His actions killed all 259 passengers and crew on board the aircraft and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie,” Kenerson said. “Countless families have never fully recovered as a result of his actions and never will fully recover.”
The U.S. charged Mas’ud for his alleged role in the 1988 attack in December 2020 while the Justice Department was still headed by former Attorney General Bill Barr.
“These charges are the product of decades of hard work by investigators and prosecutors who have remained resolute in their dogged pursuit of justice for our citizens, the citizens of the United Kingdom, and the citizens of the other 19 countries that were murdered by terrorists operating on behalf of the former Muamar Qaddafi regime when they attacked Pan Am Flight 103,” Barr said in a statement at the time.
“As to all the victims and the families, we cannot take away your pain from your loss, but we can seek justice for you,” he continued. “Our message to other terrorists around the world is this – you will not succeed – if you attack Americans, no matter where you are, no matter how long it takes, you will be pursued to the ends of the earth until justice is done.”
Flight 103 was blown apart as it traveled from London to New York City. The wreckage from the commercial aircraft plummeted to the ground over Lockerbie and “destroyed an entire city block where homes had peacefully stood just minutes earlier,” according to the Department of Justice. At the time, the bombing was considered the largest terror attack ever carried out against either the U.S. or the U.K. until the terror attacks of September 11, 2001.