The Scottish government have said no decision has been made on releasing the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
The government statement followed reports that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, serving a life sentence for the bombing that killed 270 people, could be released on compassionate grounds. The 52-year-old is suffering from terminal prostate cancer. A court rejected his appeal for release last November, saying he could be treated at a prison hospital, but left open the door for future appeals. “No decision has been made on applications under the prisoner transfer agreement or compassionate early release by the Libyan authorities and Mr. Al Megrahi,” the Scottish government said. “Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is still considering all the representations in both cases and hopes to make a decision this month.” What constitutes “compassionate grounds” We want to hear your views. Megrahi, a Libyan national, was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in January 2001, but he maintains his innocence.
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On December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Scotland as it headed from London to New York. All 259 people on board the plane died along with 11 Scots on the ground when the plane crashed in the small town of Lockerbie. Megrahi was convicted after the prosecution argued he had placed the bomb, hidden in a suitcase, on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. There, 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.
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Another man — Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima — was also tried in the bombing but was acquitted. The prosecution maintained Megrahi, who worked at Malta’s Luqa 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 Megrahi must serve at least 27 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Megrahi has lodged an appeal of his conviction, which a five-judge review commission is still considering. New evidence uncovered during the commission’s investigation and other evidence not submitted at Megrahi’s original trial led the commission to believe that Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, commission Chairman Graham Forbes 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 Megrahi purchased the clothes in Malta on the day alleged. It said evidence not heard at trial indicates the clothes were purchased when Megrahi was not in Malta. Also not heard at trial, the commission said, was evidence that the owner of the clothes shop had seen Megrahi’s picture in a magazine article about Lockerbie days before he picked Megrahi out of a line-up. At trial, the clothes shop owner, Anthony Gauci, said the purchaser of the clothes resembled Megrahi “a lot.”