Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi finally agreed last year to hand the men over, in a bid to break out of the international isolation and U.N. sanctions imposed on his country as a result of the case. "He held off for years out of fear that he would be personally implicated in the case," says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell. "Now he's cut these people loose and is more concerned about getting Libya back on line than with what happens to these individuals. And he's obviously encouraged by signs that influential interest groups in the West favor restoring ties both for business reasons and to prepare for a post-Ghaddafi future."
Although nobody really believes that two of the strongman's intelligence agents would have independently conceived and executed a terror attack of such dramatic consequence, Ghaddafi appears to have somehow satisfied himself that the current trial would be unlikely to implicate him directly. And while it was conceivable, given the cycle of Libyan-sponsored terror attacks and retaliatory U.S. bombings of Libya during the '80s, that the attack on Pan Am 103 was authored in Tripoli, analysts have long speculated that the Libyans might have been subcontracted by a third party such as Iran or Syria. But with proceedings focused narrowly on the men who allegedly carried out the crime, family members of the victims are resigned to being short-changed on both justice and truth. "This trial will do one thing," said Daniel Cohen of New Jersey, who lost his 20-year-old daughter, Theodora, in the attack. "It will serve to remind the world what really happened."