The man suspected of building the bomb that downed Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 – killing 270 people – will not face the death penalty, a US court has heard.

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi appeared in a federal court in Washington on Monday.

He faces three charges, including two counts of destruction of an aircraft resulting in death, and a further count of destruction of a vehicle resulting in death.

Each of the charges are punishable by a sentence of up to life imprisonment, the death penalty or a fine of up to 250,000 US dollars.

US Britain US Lockerbie Suspect
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Alexandria Sheriff’s Office via AP)

But US prosecutors told the court they would not pursue the death penalty because it was not constitutionally available at the time of the bombing.

US officials said on Sunday that Libyan Mas’ud, who allegedly worked as an intelligence agent for the country’s former dictator Muammar Gaddafi, had been detained, although is not clear how he was apprehended.

In 2020, he was charged by the US Attorney General William Barr with being the third person involved in the terrorist attack.

At the time, he was said to be in Libyan custody and Mr Barr said US authorities would work “arm in arm” with their Scottish counterparts.

Mr Barr said: “Let there be no mistake, no amount of time or distance will stop the US and our Scottish partners from pursuing justice in this case.”

In court on Monday, Mas’ud was asked to state his full name before complaining that he could not clearly hear the voice of the interpreter.

Once he could follow proceedings, the charges were read out but he said through the interpreter: “I cannot talk before I see my attorney.”

Prosecutors say Mas’ud is charged with making the bomb that was placed on Pan Am flight 103 that exploded over Lockerbie, killing all 259 passengers and crew onboard, as well as 11 people on the ground four days before Christmas in 1988.

Assistant US Attorney Erik Kenerson said: “Although nearly 34 years have passed since the defendant’s attack, countless families have never fully recovered from his actions and will never fully recover.”

Mas’ud was remanded in custody pending a full detention hearing on December 27.