Locker­bie bomb ac­cused closer to free­dom

Dy­ing Libyan with­draws ap­peal

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

ED­IN­BURGH: A for­mer Libyan agent jailed for the mur­der of 270 peo­ple in the 1988 Locker­bie air­liner bomb­ing has asked to end his sec­ond ap­peal against his con­vic­tion, his lawyer said yes­ter­day.

Ab­del Bas­set al-Me­grahi, 57, who is dy­ing of prostate can­cer, must drop his ap­peal to be con­sid­ered for repa­tri­a­tion un­der a pris­oner trans­fer agree­ment (PTA) signed by Bri­tain and Libya.

Un­con­firmed me­dia re­ports this week said Scot­tish min­is­ters were plan­ning to release Me­grahi on com­pas­sion­ate grounds, a move strongly op­posed by the US gov­ern­ment and many US rel­a­tives of those killed in the at­tack on the Pan Am plane.

“His con­di­tion has taken a sig­nif­i­cant turn for the worse in re­cent weeks,” Me­grahi’s lawyer, Tony Kelly, said. “He ap­plied to the High Court of Jus­ti­ciary to aban­don his ap­peal.”

Me­grahi, who lost his first ap­peal in 2002, made a sep­a­rate ap­pli­ca­tion to the Scot­tish au­thor­i­ties in July to be re­leased due to his se­vere ill­ness, Kelly added.

The court in Ed­in­burgh will meet on Tues­day to con­sider the re­quest to drop the ap­peal, a spokes­woman said.

A Scot­tish gov­ern­ment spokes­woman said Jus­tice Sec­re­tary Kenny MacAskill would make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on whether to release Me­grahi, ei­ther un­der the PTA or due to ill­ness.

“We are con­sid­er­ing the two applications be­fore us,” she said. A de­ci­sion was ex­pected soon. A spokes­woman for Prime Min­is­ter Gor­don Brown had no com­ment.

Me­grahi was con­victed un­der Scot­tish law at a trial in the Nether­lands of blow­ing up a Boe­ing 747 over the Scot­tish town of Locker­bie as it flew from Lon­don to New York.

He was sen­tenced to 27 years in prison. The bomb killed all 259 peo­ple on board, in­clud­ing 189 Amer­i­cans, and 11 on the ground.

The US State Depart­ment said Me­grahi should spend the rest of his life in jail, a view shared by many Amer­i­can rel­a­tives of those killed.

How­ever, some the fam­i­lies of many Bri­tish vic­tims say they are not con­vinced by the case against Me­grahi and say he should be re­leased while a fuller pic­ture of the case is es­tab­lished.

Chris­tine Gra­hame, a mem­ber of the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment who be­lieves Me­grahi is in­no­cent, said uniden­ti­fied Scot­tish of­fi­cials had been “ex­ert­ing un­due pres­sure” on the Libyan to drop his ap­peal to keep de­tails of the case se­cret.

“They ap­pear to have been suc­cess­ful,” she said in a state­ment that called for a pub­lic in­quiry into the case. “Some se­ri­ous scru­tiny will be re­quired to de­ter­mine ex­actly why Mr Me­grahi is now drop­ping his ap­peal and ex­am­i­na­tion of what pres­sure he has come un­der.”

An­a­lysts say the de­ci­sion on whether to release Me­grahi is as much po­lit­i­cal as le­gal or med­i­cal.

“There is cer­tainly pol­i­tics at play,” Oliver Miles, a for­mer Bri­tish am­bas­sador to Libya said. “It is tan­gled up with all th­ese com­pli­cated in­ter­ests and po­lit­i­cal shenani­gans be­tween the three cap­i­tals con­cerned.”

Libya has been mak­ing progress to­wards shed­ding its pariah sta­tus and be­ing ac­cepted by the West and the release would mark an im­por­tant mile­stone.

Muam­mar Gaddafi will next month mark the 40th an­niver­sary of the revo­lu­tion that brought him to power in Libya and Bri­tish oil and gas com­pa­nies hope to ex­plore Libya’s rich en­ergy re­serves.– Reuters

BOMBER: Ab­del Bas­set Ali al-Me­grahi.

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