Lockerbie bomber returns to Libya

Posted on August 20, 2009

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The Lockerbie bomber has left Scotland on board a plane bound for Libya after being freed from prison on compassionate grounds.

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

The decision to release Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, was made by the Scottish Government.

US president Barack Obama said the decision was “a mistake” and some US victims’ families reacted angrily.

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

Megrahi left Greenock prison in a police convoy.  Megrahi was released from Greenock Prison

‘A convenient scapegoat?’

A police convoy left Greenock Prison, where Megrahi was serving his sentence, more than an hour after the announcement of his release was made.

He was taken to Glasgow Airport to board the Afriqiyah Airways Airbus plane bound for Tripoli, which took off shortly before 1530 BST.

The government said it had consulted widely before Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill made his decision on applications for Megrahi’s compassionate release or his transfer to a Libyan jail. He told a media conference on Thursday 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.

The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi

And Mr MacAskill stressed that he accepted the conviction and sentence which had been handed to Megrahi.

“Mr 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,” he said.

“But that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.”

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

Fiona Trott
BBC News correspondent, in Lockerbie

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Posted in: International