Suspected Pan Am Flight 103 bomber pleads not guilty to 1988 airplane blast over Scotland

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud, the man accused of helping carry out the 1988 airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, pleaded not guilty in a U.S. court Wednesday.

Mas’ud, a Libyan, is facing three federal charges on suspicion that he helped make the bomb that destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988, shortly after taking off for New York from London’s Heathrow Airport. The bombing killed all 259 people aboard the 747 and 11 on the ground. The attack killed 190 Americans.

The 71-year-old faces life in prison if convicted of two charges of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death and one charge of destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce by an explosive, resulting in death.

Whitney Minter, his public defender, entered the not guilty plea and requested a jury trial.

The initial arraignment was delayed in January because Mas’ud’s family had difficulty hiring a defense attorney. Minter was appointed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya on Jan. 25.

Mas’ud was charged by the Justice Department in 2020 while he was in custody in Libya for unrelated crimes. He reportedly confessed to a Libyan law enforcement official in September 2012.

He was indicted in December 2022 after extradition to the U.S. On Wednesday, Mas’ud spoke through an Arabic interpreter at the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

U.S. prosecutors allege that Mas’ud was a longtime explosives expert for Libya’s intelligence service and was ordered to build and time a suitcase bomb that a co-conspirator later put onto the aircraft.

Moammar Gadhafi, Libya’s longtime leader, “thanked him and other members of the team for their successful attack on the United States,” according to the criminal complaint against Mas’ud.

Mas’ud is in custody in Alexandria, Virginia, and a detention hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23.

He is the only person to be charged in the U.S. for the terrorist attack.

Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah were charged in 1991 in Scotland. Megrahi was found guilty in 2001 and sentenced to life in prison but was released for medical reasons and died from cancer in Tripoli, Libya, in 2012. Fhimah was acquitted.