Lockerbie bomber may be released

By Liz Stephens

Scottish authorities are reportedly preparing to free the Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing on compassionate grounds.

Abdelbaset al- Megrahi was sentenced to a minimum term of 25 years in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 which exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

He is said to have weeks to live after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.

It was reported last night that Scottish justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, told the Libyan government Mr Megrahi would be returning home after visiting the Libyan in Greenock prison last week.

The Scottish parole board has also been asked for its views on granting compassionate early release.

But Scottish government officials have insisted that no decision has been made to release Mr Megrahi.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We can confirm that no decision has been made on applications under the prisoner transfer agreement or compassionate early release by Mr Al Megrahi.

“Justice secretary Kenny MacAskill is still considering all the representations in both cases and hopes to make a decision this month.”

The potential release of the convicted bomber has angered some US relatives of the 270 victims.

Susan Cohen, whose daughter was one of 35 students from Syracuse University in New York on the flight, said: “Any letting out of Megrahi would be a disgrace. It makes me sick, and if there is a compassionate release then I think that is vile.

“It just shows that the power of oil money counts for more than justice.”

However, many British families believe Mr Megrahi is innocent.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter, said: “On reasonable human grounds it is the right thing to do and if it’s true that he is to be returned on compassionate grounds then that would be more to Scotland’s credit than returning him under the prisoner transfer agreement.”

Pamela Dix, from UK Families Flight 103, said: “Almost 21 years after the Lockerbie bombing, I would expect to know who did it, why they did it and how they did it. Instead, we’re left in situation of really knowing very little about what happened.”

Mr Megrahi is half-way through an appeal against his 2001 conviction and has always maintained his innocence.

If he is granted release on compassionate grounds the Scottish courts would have to drop his appeal.