To enjoy the full Mail & Guardian online experience: please upgrade your browser
17 Aug 2009 12:34
Scotland’s justice secretary will make an announcement by the end of next week on the fate of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people, a spokesperson said on Monday.
“He’s cancelled all engagements to consider this matter. We do expect a decision very soon and he’ll make a public statement on his decision,” the spokesperson said, adding that the announcement should be made within the next 10 days.
Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was convicted in 2001 of plotting the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in Scotland in 1988, killing all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground.
He is serving a 27-year sentence in a Scottish prison.
Libya has requested that Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return home to see family members before he dies.
At the same time, Britain and Libya have signed a Prisoner Transfer Agreement that would allow Megrahi to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Libya if Scotland’s Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, determines that should happen.
MacAskill is now trying to decide what course of action to take amid intense pressure from various sources—the Libyan government, the families of victims who died in the bombing, and the United States government, which wants Megrahi to serve out his term.
In order to help him make his decision, MacAskill has asked for medical and judicial reports on the case.
“I can confirm that the justice secretary has received all the final advice on both of the applications,” the spokesperson said, confirming that MacAskill now has all the information before him that he had requested.
Megrahi last week asked to have an appeal against his conviction dropped, a move that appeared to make it more likely that he will be granted compassionate release.
A Scottish court will decide on Tuesday whether to accept Megrahi’s request.
Granting Megrahi compassionate release is likely to enrage groups representing the families of the 189 Americans who died in the bombing.
The Megrahi case has become a millstone for the Scottish government, which is balancing a series of interests.
Among them is the fact that major British oil companies are trying to do more business in Libya, which has moved back towards Western acceptance since giving up its ambitions to develop nuclear weapons in 2003.—Reuters
Create Account | Lost Your Password?