Terrorism: December 16, 1999


: Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian man, was arrested after trying to enter the US from Canada. Timers, detonators and explosives were found hidden in his trunk. The suspect had been in Canada for five years, ostensibly trying to obtain political asylum. But Ressam had been in trouble with the police for stealing and hanging out with known terrorists (mainly the Algerian fundamentalist GIA organization, but also with Osama Bin Laden.) Ressam is feared to be one of many terrorists planning to disrupt New Year's Eve celebrations with terrorist attacks.

December 15; Fifteen suspected terrorists were arrested in Jordan. They were accused of planning attacks against Americans. Jordan has cracked down on terrorism in their territory. It's bad for tourism, a major business in Jordan. The new king (Abdullah) is more pro-American than his father. In fact, while his father was still alive, crown prince Abdullah even appeared in a Star Trek episode in a small part. King Abdullah is even more of a technology fan than his father, and no doubt appreciates the ability of American satellites to gather information on terrorist operations. Even with cell phones equipped with scramblers, and encrypted email, a lot of information can still be picked up if you have the resources of, say, the US. 

December 16; LOCKERBIE TRIAL DELAYED: Lord Sutherland, the main judge in the case of the two Libyans charged in the Lockerbie bombing reluctantly agree on 8 Dec to delay the trial three months until 3 May 2000. The defendants had, through their attorneys, asked the judges to throw out the charge of conspiracy to commit murder since any conspiracy would have taken place in Libya, outside of the jurisdiction of the Scottish courts. Scotland claims jurisdiction because the plane blew up in its airspace. The Scottish judges refused, and the defendants then demanded more time to prepare a defense against the conspiracy charge. The judges were reluctant (the trial has already been delayed six months by various defense motions, and years before that by the Libyan government's refusal to hand over the two suspects. Eventually, however, Judge Lord Sutherland had to agree. The judge rejected a prosecution request for some witnesses to testify behind a screen, with their faces masked and their voices altered, but agreed to consider the question in the case of specific individuals. The prosecution warned that the witnesses could become targets of Libyan intelligence agency assassins, or their relatives still in Libya could become victims of government persecution. The Prosecution also wants to call officials and former officials of the CIA, British and Swedish intelligence, and the former East German Stasi intelligence agency. These individuals have indicated that they would be extremely reluctant to testify in open court.--Stephen V Cole


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