Freedom for terminally ill Lockerbie bomber

LONDON: The Lockerbie bomber is to be released on compassionate grounds, the Scottish Government has announced.

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, 57, was jailed in 2001 for the atrocity which claimed 270 lives in 1988.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill revealed that the Libyan, who has

terminal prostate cancer, would be allowed to return to his homeland.

The US Government said it “deeply regretted” the Scottish Government’s decision to release Megrahi. He will be flown to Tripoli on a specially chartered plane.

The government said it had consulted widely before MacAskill made his decision on applications for Megrahi’s compassionate release or his transfer to a Libyan jail.

He told a media conference today that he had

rejected the application for a prisoner transfer.

However, after taking medical advice it was expected that three months was a “reasonable estimate” of the time Megrahi had left to live.

He ruled out the option of the Libyan being allowed to live in Scotland on security grounds.

And he stressed that he accepted the conviction and sentence which had been handed to Megrahi. However, Macaskill said Scots defined themselves by their humanity.

“Al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days.

No compassion was shown by him to them. But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.”

MacAskill continued: “Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available.

“Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs the we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people — no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.

“For these reasons and these reasons alone, it is my decision that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi,

convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die.”

MacAskill had been under intense pressure from the US government to keep Megrahi behind bars, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton saying his release would be “absolutely wrong”.

Some 189 Americans were among those who died in the airliner explosion.