A Libyan man convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, is dropping his appeal, the Scottish Court Service said Friday.
The move may be part of a deal convicted bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is seeking with Scottish authorities to be released on compassionate grounds. Al-Megrahi, 57, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is serving a life sentence for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people. It was the world’s deadliest act of air terrorism until the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to the FBI. A compassionate release could allow al-Megrahi, who has maintained his innocence, to return to his native Libya. The Scottish Court Service said al-Megrahi has lodged a “minute of abandonment” with the court, which is a legal move to drop an appeal. The court will hold a hearing Tuesday to consider it, spokeswoman Elizabeth Cutting told CNN. The Pan Am flight exploded December 21, 1988, as it flew over Scotland on its way from London to New York. All 259 people aboard the plane died along with 11 Scots on the ground.
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Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 after the prosecution argued he had placed the bomb, hidden in a suitcase, on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. In Germany, prosecutors said, the bomb was transferred onto the Pan Am plane that went first to London’s Heathrow Airport and then was to continue to New York. Another man — Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima — also was tried in the bombing but was acquitted. The prosecution maintained al-Megrahi, who worked at the Malta airport, was an agent for the Libyan intelligence services and had been seen buying clothes that were in the suitcase that contained the bomb. Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the bombing, though Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi later denied any culpability. A Scottish court ruled in 2003 that al-Megrahi must serve at least 27 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. After al-Megrahi lodged the appeal of his conviction, a five-judge review began examining evidence for the court to consider. New evidence uncovered during the commission’s investigation and other evidence not submitted at al-Megrahi’s original trial led the commission to believe that he may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, commission chairman Graham Forbes has said. While the commission has not outlined all of the six grounds for appeal, it did identify two of them in a June 2007 news release. The first is a finding by the commission that “there is no reasonable basis” for the trial court’s conclusion that al-Megrahi purchased the clothes in Malta on the day alleged. It said evidence not heard at trial indicates the clothes were purchased when al-Megrahi was not in Malta. Also not heard at trial, the commission said, was evidence that the owner of the clothes shop had seen al-Megrahi’s picture in a magazine article about Lockerbie days before he picked al-Megrahi out of a lineup. At trial, clothes shop owner Anthony Gauci said the purchaser of the clothes resembled al-Megrahi “a lot.”