Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Lockerbie release milestone nears

It is two years since Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi was released from prison on medical grounds

Relatives of Lockerbie bombing victims have spoken out ahead of the second anniversary of the early prison release of the only man convicted of the atrocity.

Saturday will be two years to the day since Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was freed from jail in Scotland by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill on compassionate grounds.

Megrahi served nearly eight years of a 27-year sentence after being convicted of killing 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 four days before Christmas in 1988.

He returned to Libya after being released on August 20 2009. Megrahi had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and the Scottish Government accepted advice that he had about three months to live.

Despite anger from critics of the decision, others hit out at the "annual Lockerbie bomber blood fest".

Some relatives of victims, and other campaigners, believe Megrahi is innocent, or that all legal avenues have not yet been followed through in the case.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the bombing, said: "It's extremely frustrating that we're here, still talking about this. The fact that it's now years later means that the decision was probably made on a spurious basis. I'm sure Kenny MacAskill made it in good faith, but why are we having this discussion now? It's just another thing that remains unsolved."

Of the 270 victims, 189 were Americans. US families were among the most vocal critics of the decision, along with President Barack Obama.

A spokesman for Mr MacAskill accused the Tories of hypocrisy and said: "Scotland's justice system has been dealing with the Lockerbie atrocity for nearly 23 years, and in every regard the due process of Scots law has been followed - in terms of the investigation, prosecution, imprisonment, rejection of the prisoner transfer application and granting of compassionate release.

"The Justice Secretary released Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone, based on the rules and regulations of Scots law and the recommendations of the Parole Board for Scotland, the prison governor, and the report of the Scottish Prison Service director of health and care Dr Andrew Fraser - all of which have been published. The decision was made following the due process of Scots law, and the fact remains that Megrahi has a terminal illness and is dying of prostate cancer."

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