Mon, Jul 27, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Libya asks for Lockerbie bomber to be freed from jail

REUTERS , London

The Libyan government has formally asked Scotland for the compassionate release of the former Libyan agent imprisoned for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, the Scottish government said on Saturday.

Libyan authorities made the application on behalf of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who was sentenced to life for blowing up a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

All 259 people on board the London to New York flight were killed, including 189 Americans, along with 11 people on the ground.

“We can confirm an application for compassionate release has been made by Mr al-Megrahi, and forwarded by the Libyan Government to the Scottish ministers,” a Scottish government spokeswoman said in a statement.”

“Scottish ministers will not comment on the content of the application and will now seek advice on the application,” she said.

Libya has repeatedly brought up the fate of the 57-year-old Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, most recently at a meeting in Italy between Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier this month.

But the British government has said it is a matter for Scotland, which has a separate legal system from the rest of Britain.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will now consider whether the application should be granted.

If it is, Megrahi would not be required to drop his appeal against his conviction.

Earlier this month, the Scottish Appeal Court said his hearing would not be concluded until next year, raising concern that Megrahi will die before the appeal is settled.

Megrahi, convicted in 2001 in a special Scottish court meeting in the Netherlands, is in Greenock prison in Scotland.

Some relatives of those killed in the bombing support the move to allow him to go home, since they have never been convinced of the Libyan’s guilt.

In May, Tripoli made an application to the Scottish government on Megrahi’s behalf for him to return to his homeland as part of a Prisoner Transfer Agreement. A decision is likely to take up to 90 days.

Megrahi has previously been denied bail to go home, requested on humanitarian grounds.

Four years after Megrahi’s conviction, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to pay about US$2.7 billion in compensation to the victims’ families — a move that helped clear the way for the lifting of sanctions and the restoration of Libya’s ties with Western states.

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