Gadhafi Meets Flight 103 Families
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi met with two family members of victims of the 1998 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland, one of the family members told USA TODAY on Friday.
"I came (to the meeting) offering a tangible expression of goodwill and authentic caring for the Libyan people and for him, when everyone else has come out in opposition," said Lisa Gibson, 39, a Colorado Springs attorney, who attended the meeting Wednesday night at the Libyan Mission to the United Nations in New York.
Her brother died when the flight from London to New York blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people. Kenneth Gibson, 20, was a specialist in the Army and was returning to the United States for Christmas, she said.
"At least he (Gadhafi) knows there are a few family members that have a desire to move forward," she said.
Gadhafi was in New York to speak at the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday, his first appearance at the U.N. after 40 years in power.
Former Libyan intelligence official Abdel Baset Ali Megrahi was the only person convicted of the bombing and was sentenced to life in prison in 2001. Scotland released him in August on compassionate grounds because he is dying of prostate cancer. The controversial move sparked outrage by the U.S. and many families of the victims.
Libya officially had accepted responsibility for Lockerbie and agreed to pay restitution to relatives of victims.
Officials at the Libyan Mission to the U.N. and the Libyan Embassy in Washington could not be reached Friday evening for comment about the meeting.
Some family members who lost loved ones in the attack expressed surprise and dismay about Gibson's meeting.
"It's insulting, it's very insulting," said George Williams, 78, of Parkville, Md. His son, Geordie, 24, was a first lieutenant in the Army and also was on his way home from Germany to celebrate Christmas.
"I wish it were me having a meeting with him," Williams said. "I know what I would do. He killed my son."
Gibson, the Colorado lawyer, is author of the book "Life in Death: A Journey from Terrorism to Triumph," which came out last year. She is also executive director of the Peace and Prosperity Alliance, which aims to build relationships between developed and developing nations.
She said she has traveled to Libya three times, where her group is involved in projects such as raising money for Libyan children with AIDS.
Though she attended some parts of Megrahi's trial and "felt there was a lot of evidence" against him, she said she made the choice to forgive him.
"There was a conviction, a payment of civil damages, and there was an acceptance of responsibility from Libya," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, justice was done, that's why I can focus on positive reconciliation with Libya."
She said she had asked Libyan officials in the United States to meet with Gadhafi while he was in New York. According to Gibson, the other family member who attended the 10-minute meeting was a man who lost his father in the bombing.
Libyan officials and Libyan reporters also were there, she said.
She said Gadhafi spoke first, offering his hand and saying "Welcome." They exchanged pleasantries before she told him about the work she has been doing in Libya.
He told her he appreciated her efforts, she said.
Near the end of the meeting, she gave Gadhafi a Cross pen and a card in which she told him she had been praying for him. "It was the first time he smiled in the meeting," she said. "He warmly received it and said thank you."
Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said he was unfamiliar with Gibson and that she had not been active in the group. Duggan said he fears the meeting will be used as propaganda in Libya.
"They're going to make a big deal about the fact that there was this huge support for Gadhafi in this country, when in fact he was given the stiff arm by the city of New York," he said, referring to Gadhafi's failed attempts to get approval to set up a Bedouin-style tent in the area.