Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Ministers deny Lockerbie bomber about to be freed

The Scottish Government last night denied reports that a decision had been made to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years after being convicted in 2001 of bombing Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 killing 270 people.

The Government is considering a request by Megrahi to be released on compassionate grounds. Another has been made for him to be transferred to a Libyan jail.

A spokesman for First Minister Alex Salmond said reports he was to be released were “complete speculation”.

He said: “No decision has been taken, either on the application for compassionate release or the application under the prisoner transfer agreement and so it is entirely speculation.”

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill MSP, who has the final say over whether Megrahi should be transferred or released, visited the Libyan last week in Greenock prison, where he is serving his sentence.

Megrahi is also appealing against his conviction for the bombing.

Mr MacAskill cannot grant the prisoner a transfer while his appeal against his conviction goes through the courts.

However if Megrahi were granted release on compassionate grounds he would not have to drop his appeal for this to be granted, unlike the prisoner transfer option.

Mr MacAskill has said that political and economic factors will not influence his decision and that a 90-day deadline on the prisoner transfer will not be met.

The First Minister's spokesman said there was no timescale for when the decisions would be reached.

It emerged earlier this month that no decision on the appeal against conviction will be reached until the autumn, after one of the judges involved had heart surgery.

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