Fri, Aug 14, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Minister says no decision made on Lockerbie bomber


Sky News and BBC television reported on Wednesday that Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was to be freed from his Scottish prison on compassionate grounds, but the minister in charge of deciding al-Megrahi’s fate denied that any such decision had been made.

Neither news network cited a source for its report.

Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who was due to decide whether to release al-Megrahi, told a local television station he had yet to make up his mind. A call and an e-mail sent to al-Megrahi’s Scottish lawyer were not immediately returned late on Wednesday.

“The decision will be made next week,” MacAskill told Scottish Television late on Wednesday.

Two spokeswomen for the Scottish government dismissed the BBC and Sky reports as speculation.

“Absolutely no decision has been taken on that,” a spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said. “Categorically no decision has been made at this stage.”

A second spokeswoman noted that MacAskill had yet to review all the information about the case.

“The bottom line is that the Justice Secretary, Mr MacAskill, is still awaiting evidence,” she said. “He has not made that decision.”

Both officials spoke anonymously in line with Scottish government policy.

Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan secret service agent, is serving a life sentence for the bombing of Pan Am 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988. The attack killed 270 people — most of them Americans. He is terminally ill with cancer and his legal team has sought his release on compassionate grounds in the past. A separate request has also been made to have him serve out his sentence in a Libyan jail.

The BBC said al-Megrahi’s release was influenced by the hope that he could be back on Libyan soil in time for Ramadan next week.

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