The Lockerbie bomber made a brief public appearance at a hospital in Libya Wednesday, looking weak and unable to engage in what was going on around him.
Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who was released from prison in Scotland last month on the grounds that he has terminal cancer, sat slumped in a wheelchair during his brief appearance. He appeared on stage at the hospital before a group of African lawmakers and some invited journalists, including Nic Robertson, CNN senior international correspondent , who was able to get close and see him clearly. Al Megrahi coughed deeply, his whole body shaking, as the pan-African parliamentarians made speeches. He wore a surgical-type mask on his face and was connected to an intravenous drip. A nurse regularly took his pulse. “The overall impression was of a man very weak, unable really to engage in what was going on around him, and coughing quite violently at times,” Robertson said.
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“He seemed to be almost too frail to take part in this,” he added. “His eyes were glazed over. His eyes closed several times during the four or five minutes he was on stage.” He was wheeled back offstage after the short appearance. Al Megrahi is being treated in a private part of the university hospital in Tripoli. He is the only person convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. He was released from jail last month, about eight and a half years after being sentenced to life in prison. Al Megrahi, 57, was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year. Declassified medical reports say the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes and skeletal system. Doctors estimated in August that he had perhaps three months to live. The families of some of his victims opposed his release — some because he had shown their loved ones no comparable compassion, and others because it brought to an end a legal process which they hoped would shed more light on the bombing. The U.S. government also said al Megrahi should not be freed. He received a hero’s welcome when he returned to Libya, prompting condemnation from President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Since his release, the British and Scottish governments have denied allegations he was let go in order to clear the way for British oil deals with Libya.