Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release

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Event.png Abdelbaset al-Megrahi/Compassionate release Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.jpg
In 2009, shortly after his "compassionate release"
Date20 August 2009
Typecompassionate release (prostate cancer)
DescriptionThe actual grounds for Megrahi's release may in fact be as "compassionate" as claimed; this may have been a convenient way to short cirtcuit increasing realisation that he had been falsely convicted.

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan citizen, was the only person convicted of sabotaging Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland on 21 December 1988, killing all 259 passengers and crew aboard, and 11 people on the ground. Megrahi's nine-month trial at a special Scottish Court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands concluded on 31 January 2001 when he was found guilty on 270 counts of murder and sentenced to 27 years imprisonment in Scotland. His co-accused Lamin Khalifah Fhimah was found not guilty, was freed and returned to Libya. Megrahi's appeal to the Camp Zeist court against his conviction was rejected on 14 February 2002. His lawyers applied in September 2003 to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission to review the conviction. Nearly four years later, on 28 June 2007, the SCCRC ruled that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi may have suffered a miscarriage of justice, and referred his case to the High Court of Justiciary in Edinburgh for a second appeal. Nearly two years later, on 28 April 2009, Megrahi's second appeal finally began, but in the intervening period he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. On 20 August 2009, after Megrahi agreed to abandon his appeal, he was granted "compassionate release" by Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, and flew back to Tripoli accompanied by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. He died on 20 May 2012.

Dr Jim Swire and Aamer Anwar announcing the new SCCRC application at a Glasgow press conference on 5 June 2014

On 5 June 2014, the BBC reported that Aamer Anwar - a lawyer acting for six of Megrahi's relatives and for 24 British Lockerbie relatives, including John Mosey and Dr Jim Swire - is making a new application to the SCCRC. Mr Anwar said:

"To date both the British government and Scottish government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release. However the evidence submitted to the Commission today claims that this is fundamentally untrue."

Mr Anwar added:

"The fundamental question for the Commission is whether it regards it as in the interests of justice to refer a case back to the High Court where the convicted person himself had commenced an appeal on a SCCRC reference and then chosen to abandon it? The answer might depend on the precise circumstances in which the appellant came to abandon his appeal. Mr Megrahi's terminal illness; the fact that prisoner transfer was not open while the appeal was ongoing; and whether Mr Megrahi had no way of knowing that Kenny MacAskill would ultimately opt for compassionate release rather than prisoner transfer or, as is alleged, that he was led to believe that he would not be released unless he dropped his appeal."[1]

Aamer Anwar has also asked the SCCRC to consider further evidence, including claims that it was impossible for the MEBO bomb timer identified by prosecutors at Megrahi's trial to have been responsible for the bombing; and that there is evidence the bomb - which the court heard had been put onto a flight at Malta - had already been ingested at Heathrow, the doomed flight's departure airport.[2][3]

Megrahi Appeal - What Happens Next?

It was announced at a press conference in Glasgow on 5 June 2014 that an application is being lodged to overturn the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. What happens next?

  1. The case will be assigned to a case worker at the SCCRC and that worker will consider the case and provide a report to the Board (who sit once a month). The Board will consider whether to refer it back.
  2. The Board normally consider several cases at the same time but it is likely that in this instance the Board will convene specially to hear this application.
  3. The SCCRC review and investigation process is described as thorough, robust, impartial and independent.
  4. On receipt of an application the Chief Executive of the Commission allocates the application to a legal officer. They obtain the court papers.
  5. The legal officer obtains any other further information he or she considers to be necessary so that the Board of the Commission can take a decision about whether to accept the application for review.
  6. If the Board does not accept the application for review, the Chief Executive writes to the applicant and his or her representative to inform them of the Board's decision and the file is closed.
  7. If the Board accepts the application for review, they will write to all the relevant parties - e.g. The Crown, the Police and the Defence - to notify them that the application has been accepted for review and to request that they preserve for the duration of our review all documents and productions they hold relative to the case.
  8. They obtain then relevant papers from the Crown, the Police and the Defence.
  9. Under normal circumstances the Legal Officer will conduct a review of the papers and issues in the case and will arrange to interview the applicant.
  10. The Legal Officer prepares a case plan document setting out information relating to the evidence led at trial, the appeal, the grounds of review and his or her recommendations to take forward the review of the case.
  11. Within two months from the date of the acceptance of the application for review, the case plan is submitted to a Committee of two or three Board Members and the Chief Executive. The Committee consider the case plan and agree a course of action with the Legal Officer for the review of the case.
  12. The Legal Officer proceeds with the investigation and review, updating the Committee on the progress of the review every month or so and seeking guidance from the Committee and/or the Chief Executive where necessary.
  13. The review process should take no longer than nine months for conviction cases.
  14. After the review of the case is completed, the Committee take a view about whether or not the case should be referred to the High Court.
  15. The legal officer then prepares a draft statement of reasons for referral or non-referral for the Committee’s consideration. Once the Committee is content with the draft statement of reasons, the case is submitted to the Board of the Commission for a decision.
  16. If the SCCRC Board recommends a referral then the application will go back to the Appeal Court.[4]

Call for Megrahi's release

The first Scottish call for the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was made by Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Iain Torrance. At the beginning of 2003, Nelson Mandela had asked for the intervention of the Western Christian churches in what he described as "a clear miscarriage of justice". This led to the production of a highly critical report of the scientific and forensic evidence presented at the original trial by the Church of Scotland's leading scientist Dr John Urquhart Cameron.[5] As a result, in July 2003 Torrance petitioned the then prime minister Tony Blair to consider Megrahi's release in view of the widespread unease in Scotland concerning the safety of the verdict.

On 14 September 2008, the Arab League Ministerial Council passed a resolution calling for the 'political hostage' Megrahi to be released from prison in Scotland. The resolution demanded that the Scottish government should hand to Megrahi's lawyers the documents which the SCCRC had identified, adding that Britain's refusal to do so represented a 'miscarriage of justice'. The Arab League also endorsed Libya's right to compensation for the damage done to its economy by UN sanctions which were in force from 1991 until 1999.[6]

On 6 November 2008, three Criminal Appeal Court judges reserved judgment on an application by defence counsel Maggie Scott for Megrahi to be released on bail pending his second appeal against conviction which was expected to be heard in 2009.[7] A week later, Megrahi's bail application was refused.[8]

On the Lockerbie bombing's 20th anniversary, The Independent published an opinion piece by journalist Hugh Miles, repeating questions around Megrahi's guilt, writing in part:

Since the Crown never had much of a case against Megrahi, it was no surprise when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) found prima facie evidence in June 2007 that Megrahi had suffered a miscarriage of justice and recommended that he be granted a second appeal. If Megrahi didn't do it, who did? Some time ago suspicion fell on a gang headed by a convicted Palestinian terrorist named Abu Talb and a Jordanian triple agent named Marwan Khreesat. Both were Iranian agents; Khreesat was also on the CIA payroll. Abu Talb was given lifelong immunity from prosecution in exchange for his evidence at the Lockerbie trial; Marwan Khreesat was released for lack of evidence by German police even though a barometric timer of the type used to detonate the bomb on Pan Am Flight 103 was found in his car when he was arrested.[9]

On 14 August 2009, Megrahi withdrew his appeal. South of Scotland SNP MSP Christine Grahame said: "There are a number of vested interests who have been deeply opposed to this appeal continuing as they know it would go a considerable way towards exposing the truth behind Lockerbie... In the next days, weeks and months new information will be placed in the public domain that will make it clear that Mr Megrahi had nothing to do with the bombing of Pan Am 103."[10] Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP for West Lothian, has long believed Megrahi was the victim of a catastrophic miscarriage of justice, and has publicly stated that Megrahi is merely a scapegoat.[11] Dalyell was supported by Nelson Mandela,[12][13] the Church of Scotland, the Catholic Church, the law faculties of the Scottish universities, the representatives of British relatives and the UN's official observer at the notorious trial in The Hague.

According to the Mail On Sunday, confidential documents showed the British Government released Megrahi because of pressure from Muammar Gaddafi as the British government feared that British nationals would be harassed and because UK energy contracts in Libya could be revoked and there would be an end to counterterrorism assistance.[14]

Alastair Darling, Britain's finance minister from 2007 to 2010, stated that "It's true to say that the British Government wanted Megrahi out. It's probably true to say that Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond fancied a wander into the international stage" but denied that British government had anything to do with the release.[15]

Family and health

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi married Aisha in 1982. They had five children: four sons and one married daughter.[16]

On 19 September 2008, armed police escorted Megrahi from prison in Greenock to Inverclyde Royal Hospital, where he was expected to undergo medical treatment.[17] On 23 September 2008, Megrahi was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, prompting calls for his second appeal to be heard promptly.[18]

On 4 December 2008, Megrahi's family joined others protesting against alleged miscarriages of justice within the Scottish justice system.[19]

An online petition to the Scottish Ministers seeking Megrahi's compassionate release was raised on 19 December 2008. It stated that he was terminally ill and would benefit physically and psychologically from compassionate release to his temporary home in Glasgow while he awaited the outcome of the appeal granted to him by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission in June 2007. Since it was likely to be many months before such an appeal was finally decided, the petition asked that Megrahi be allowed to spend his "very limited" remaining time in Scotland with his family and loved ones.[20][21]

Compassionate release

On 4 August 2009, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice in Scotland, Kenny MacAskill, visited Greenock Prison to hear Megrahi's request for a prisoner transfer to Libya.[22][23] The following week it was reported that Megrahi was likely to be released within a few days on compassionate grounds due to terminal prostate cancer, although the Scottish Government dismissed this as "complete speculation";[24] meanwhile, a United States official said that the US had no information suggesting Megrahi would be released and that he should serve out his sentence.[25] MacAskill faced international pressure from politicians in the United Kingdom and United States, with US victims’ groups and Syracuse University (which lost 25 students in the Lockerbie bombing) all urging him not to release Megrahi.[26]

On 14 August 2009, lawyers representing Megrahi announced that he had applied to the High Court in Edinburgh two days previously to withdraw his second appeal, and that his condition had "taken a significant turn for the worse".[27] On 19 August 2009, it was divulged that Kenny MacAskill had reached a decision on the bomber's fate to be announced the following day.[28] The following day, MacAskill granted his release on compassionate grounds, stating that Megrahi was in the final stages of terminal prostate cancer and was expected to die within three months.[29] Speaking of the Scottish tradition of justice with compassion and mercy, MacAskill said he was "bound by Scottish values to release him", and allow him to die in his home country of Libya.[30]

Immediately following the announcement, Megrahi, who had served just over 8½ years of his life sentence, was escorted by Strathclyde Police to Glasgow Airport where he boarded a specially chartered Afriqiyah Airways Airbus for Tripoli. Megrahi arrived back in time to join celebrations to mark 40 years since the country's revolution.

Lamin Fhimah (left) helping al-Megrahi down the aircraft steps at Tripoli airport

Megrahi landed in Libya to national celebrations and acclaim.[31] As he left the plane, a crowd of several hundred young people were gathered at Tripoli Airport to welcome him, some waving Libyan or Scottish flags, others throwing flower petals. Many had been ushered away by Libyan officials in an attempt to play down the arrival in accordance with British and US wishes.[32] Megrahi was accompanied by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who had pledged in 2008 to bring al-Megrahi home, and was then joined on the aircraft steps by Lamin Fhimah. This was the first time the pair had met since they had stood side by side during their eight-month trial at Camp Zeist, in the Netherlands 8½ years earlier.[33]

After he left the aircraft, Megrahi was driven away in convoy for a long-awaited meeting with his 86-year-old mother, Hajja Fatma Ali al-Araibi, who a few days earlier had pleaded emotionally with Scottish Ministers to release her son. Hajja had not been told of her son's terminal cancer for fear that the shock would be too much for her.[34]

Megrahi also met Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The reception was shown afterwards on Libyan state television.[35][36]

In an interview the following day with The Times, Megrahi vowed to present new evidence before he died which would exonerate him of any involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. He said, "If there is justice in the UK I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice ... my message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence and ask them to be the jury".[37] In May 2010, a sister of one of the victims expressed her desire to visit and forgive him, saying "I want to look him in the eye and make sure he knows our pain... God will judge him". She said the decision to release him was "more than we could ever expect from Libya if the tables were turned."[38]

Following his release, Megrahi was taken to Tripoli Medical Center, Libya's most advanced public clinic, for cancer treatment. A video of him in the hospital showed him using an oxygen mask to breathe. On 2 September 2009, it was reported that his cancer had worsened, and that he had been transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU). Libyan Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Seyala claimed that Megrahi had been moved to a special VIP wing of the hospital, was receiving full treatment from a team of doctors, and that his condition was not dangerous. Megrahi's family claimed that they had been informed that he had been taken to the ICU, but they were not allowed to visit him. The Foreign Ministry confirmed that his family were not allowed to visit him, but said that it was to ensure his safety. On 5 September, Megrahi was released from the ICU, but remained under close observation by a team of doctors.[39]

While in hospital, Megrahi underwent chemotherapy treatment, receiving the drug Docetaxel. He was discharged from hospital on 2 November,[40] and sent to live with his family in the New Damascus district in west Tripoli, in a villa reportedly built or bought for him, shortly before his release, by the Libyan government.[41][42] Under police protection, he resumed chemotherapy, making regular visits to hospital for chemotherapy sessions and other intensive treatment.[43]

Medical condition

Following the release, doubts were expressed whether Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was as ill as claimed by MacAskill in his statement to the Scottish Parliament. The guidance on compassionate release of a terminally ill prisoner under Scottish law specifies that death must be likely to occur "soon"; there is no fixed time limit but a life expectancy of three months is suggested as "appropriate".[44] The Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and a Minister in the previous Labour administration, Dr Richard Simpson, accused the Scottish justice minister of failing to conduct sufficient checks before deciding to release Megrahi.[45] Dr Simpson, a former member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons' prostate cancer working group who specialised in prostate disease research, expressed doubt that Megrahi would die within the next three months and claimed that he could live for eight months, going on to say that, "Kenny MacAskill released him apparently on the advice of just one doctor whose status is not clear and who is not named." He added that a second specialist opinion in palliative care should have been sought before the release.[46][47] A source close to the Justice Secretary called Simpson's comments "tasteless" and added: "I really don't think we should be speculating on the day somebody is going to die."[48]

On 27 August 2009, The Scotsman, quoting an anonymous Scottish Government source, reported that MacAskill ignored the advice of four specialists who were unwilling to speculate on Megrahi's anticipated lifespan.[49] In response, a spokesman for the Scottish Government stated, "The latest assessment of his condition was conducted by the Scottish Prison Service primary care physician treating Mr al-Megrahi, in close consultation with a highly experienced National Health Service (NHS) consultant oncologist of many years experience – both of whom have dealt with Mr al-Megrahi's case since the earliest stages following the diagnosis of metastatic prostate cancer".[50]

Reviewing the case, members of Holyrood's justice committee stated that Scottish Prison Service guidelines were not followed in the decision to release Megrahi, that the medical evidence presented was flimsy, and that four cancer specialists had refused to back up the opinion of the prison doctor that Megrahi would be dead within three months.[51] However the prison doctors and numerous experts brought in had said that Megrahi met the Scottish standards for release. The release of prisoners on compassionate grounds is up to the Minister of Justice and not to a committee.

Soon afterwards, Libyan media reported that Megrahi was able to talk to his mother by telephone from his hospital bed and The Times, at the beginning of November, suggested that his condition had not deteriorated significantly.[52]

In early April 2010 it was reported that his cancer was no longer responding to treatment. The cancer consultant Karol Sikora who had originally supported the three months prognosis (although his evidence was not allowed to contribute to the release decision as he was paid by the Libyan authorities), reported that Megrahi was bed-bound and had probably no more than four weeks to live, with his earlier apparent recovery probably due to his being with his family. The Libyan Consul General in Glasgow also reported that his condition had rapidly deteriorated.[53] In July 2010 Dr Sikora told The Daily Telegraph, "There was always a chance he could live for 10 years, 20 years ... but that would be unusual". He also stated that "It was clear that three months was what they (the Libyan government) were aiming for" adding that "On the balance of probabilities, he felt he could sort of justify that."

In June 2010, an attempt to have his medical condition made public was rejected by the Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion.[54] In response to a similar request from Scottish Tories in July, First Minister Alex Salmond was quoted as saying "You can only take a decision based on information at the time. It's not unheard of for people who have been released on compassionate grounds to live longer than the three months specified."[55] He also compared him to one of Britain's most famous prisoners, Ronald Biggs,[56] who was outliving al-Megrahi while on compassionate release.

In a July 2010 interview with Scottish Television[57] he said that his statements were misquoted extensively by dropping his qualification that 10 years' survival "would be unusual". He stated that the chances of such a long survival would be less than 1% but there was a 90% likelihood that he would be dead in a matter of weeks. UPI was still reporting the other version in August 2010.[58]

Libyan media outlets reported Megrahi had been released from the hospital and was living at his family's villa.[59][60]

On 26 July 2011, during the Libyan civil war, Megrahi was shown on Libyan state television, attending a pro-Gaddafi rally of members of his Libyan tribe. Megrahi appeared to be frail, and was in a wheelchair.[61][62] However, in late August 2011, CNN reported that a TV crew had found Megrahi comatose, and, according to his family, on his deathbed.[63] Notwithstanding this report, in early October in an interview with Reuters from his bed, al-Megrahi protested his innocence and claimed that he had only days, weeks or months to live.[64] On 13 April 2012 he was hospitalized. He died on 20 May 2012.[65] He was 60.

Suggestions of innocence

On 29 August 2011, a letter written by Megrahi was discovered by The Wall Street Journal at intelligence headquarters in Tripoli, Libya. In what was a private letter to Libya's intelligence chief not previously available to the public, Megrahi wrote "I am an innocent man," a letter apparently composed while he was serving a life sentence in Scotland, and written in blue ink on ordinary paper. The letter was found in a steel four-drawer filing cabinet that had been forced open by rebels who entered the office of intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.[66]

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing and who has been a spokesman for UK Families Flight 103, which represented British relatives, has said that he believes Megrahi is innocent.[67] Dr Swire is also concerned by comments attributed to the former Lord Advocate Lord Fraser, which appeared to doubt the credibility of the key prosecution witness, Tony Gauci.[68] Dr Swire said "the scandal around Megrahi is not that a sick man was released, but that he was ever convicted in the first place. All I have ever wanted is to see the people who murdered my daughter are brought to justice."[69]

Professor Robert Black, an expert in Scots law who devised the non-jury trial that saw the Lockerbie case heard in 2000, has called Megrahi's murder conviction "the most disgraceful miscarriage of justice in Scotland for 100 years". Prof Black said he felt "a measure of personal responsibility" for persuading Libya to allow Megrahi and his co-accused, Al-Amin Khalifah Fhimah, who was acquitted, to stand trial under Scots law.

"I have written about this and nobody is interested. Every lawyer who has ... read the judgment says 'this is nonsense'. It is nonsense. It really distresses me; I won't let it go."

The non-profit religious think tank Ekklesia noted that "all of the Crown's witnesses in the 36-week trial, which took place at a specially convened Scottish Court in the Netherlands, have subsequently been discredited. In the latest revelation, a prosecution expert misled judges about key evidence, according to a classified police memo published by the Sunday Herald on 17 July 2011," cautioning that

"Dr Swire, other UK relatives of the victims, and a range of legal campaigners, including Professor Black, say that the May 2000 trial of two Libyan suspects, the other of whom was not convicted, amounts to a cover up and a serious miscarriage of justice. Their concern is that the truth has not come out, and that the guilty have not been brought to justice."

Megrahi himself, according to his cousin, used to say

"If God gives me life and health I will appeal my case and prove my innocence."[70]

Suggested links to oil deals

On 28 August 2009, The Herald published an interview conducted with Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, in which he stated that Megrahi's release was not tied to any oil deals but was an entirely separate issue. Referring to the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA), he continued, "People should not get angry because we were talking about commerce or oil. We signed an oil deal at the same time. The commerce and politics and deals were all with the PTA. This was one animal and the other was the compassionate release. They are two completely different animals."[71]

On 30 August 2009, an article published in the Sunday Times claimed ministers at Westminster had agreed not to specifically exclude al-Megrahi from an agreement concerning prisoner transfers in 2007 because of "overwhelming national interests".[72][73] In a letter dated 19 December 2007, Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw wrote to his Scottish counterpart, "I had previously accepted the importance of the al-Megrahi issue to Scotland and said I would try to get an exclusion for him on the face of the agreement. I have not been able to secure an explicit exclusion. The wider negotiations with the Libyans are reaching a critical stage and, in view of the overwhelming interests for the UK, I have agreed that in this instance the [PTA] should be in the standard form and not mention any individual." Straw is quoted as stating that an application under the prisoner transfer agreement was turned down. Straw denied that the release was part of any deal, while Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond reiterated that the release had been granted on compassionate grounds and not as part of any deal struck by the British Government.[74]

On 16 July 2010, four United States senators made public their concerns over the release, stating they believed that the oil company BP pushed for his release to secure a deal with Libya. BP confirmed that it did press for a Prisoner Transfer Agreement as it was aware that a delay might have "negative consequences" for UK commercial interests. However, the firm said it was not involved in any discussions regarding Megrahi's release. A spokesmen for the Scottish Government insisted that they acted alone stating: "The Scottish government had no contact from BP in relation to Mr al-Megrahi." Further hearings examining Megrahi's release, due to be held at Capitol Hill on 29 July, were postponed when the US Dept of Justice and British witnesses – and in particular from the Scottish Government – refused to attend, and were rescheduled for September the same year, before the then forthcoming senatorial elections.[75]

US position on release

While President Obama expressed surprise at the decision, stating "I think all of us here in the United States were surprised, disappointed and angry about the release",[76] the US government was aware that a release was possible. The deputy head of the American embassy in London, Frank LeBaron, wrote in a letter to the Scottish first minister Alex Salmond that the US believed al-Megrahi should remain in prison for his role in downing Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, and continued: :"Nevertheless, if Scottish authorities come to the conclusion that Megrahi must be released from Scottish custody, the US position is that conditional release on compassionate grounds would be a far preferable alternative to prisoner transfer, which we strongly oppose."[77][78] This same letter stressed the importance to the United States of America of a 3-months prognosis, despite it not being a legal requirement in Scotland: "any such release should only come after the results of independent and comprehensive medical exams clearly establishing that Megrahi's life expectancy is less than three months".[79]

Appeals dossier released

On 18 September 2009, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi released a 300-page dossier of evidence that challenges the prosecution case against him, and that he believed would have secured his release on appeal.[80] The release of the evidence dossier was condemned by Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini, who said that Megrahi had abandoned his appeal before his release on compassionate grounds.[81]

Megrahi's grounds of appeal were published in November 2009, two months after the second appeal was abandoned.[82]

Wikileaks on Megrahi

Cable 08LONDON2673 (dated 2008-10-24) from US Embassy London reports:

"MEGRAHI was first diagnosed on 23 September at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, both the FCO and the Scottish Crown office have told us; the second diagnosis was on 10 October. The two diagnoses match: he has prostate cancer that has spread to his bones, the cancer has advanced rapidly, and it is inoperable and incurable. MEGRAHI could have as long as five years to live, but the average life expectancy of someone of his age with his condition is eighteen months to two years".[83]

Cable 09TRIPOLI65 (dated 2009-01-28) from US Embassy Tripoli reports:

"the case of convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is arguably the regime’s most sensitive political subject, in part because it involves a firm timeline in the form of the ailing al-Megrahi’s approaching death. Through remarks by senior officials suggesting that al-Megrahi is innocent and a steady diet of publicity about his case, the regime has limited its room for political maneuver. UK Embassy interlocutors here are planning for a scenario in which the UK-Libya Prisoner Transfer Agreement is ratified in early March and the GOL makes application shortly thereafter for al-Megrahi’s transfer to Libya. The UK Embassy expects a sharply negative GOL reaction if al-Megrahi dies in prison or if the Scottish Executive and/or FCO oppose his transfer".[84]

Another cable stated that the UK feared action by Libya against British interests if Megrahi died in jail. It also stated that the UK government fully supported his release by the Scottish government.[85]

Return to custody?

The United States urged the National Transitional Council (NTC) to review the case, with a view towards deporting Megrahi if he did not die in the meantime. The Scottish government rejected the calls, saying that only it could make such a request, and that it would not do so, as Megrahi had abided by the conditions of his release. NTC leaders initially said that they would not deport Megrahi or any other Libyan, but also admitted that only the future elected government of Libya could deal with such issues.

Following the fall of Tripoli when forces of the NTC had largely taken control of Libya, there were calls for al-Megrahi to be extradited to the United States.[86] These calls were dismissed by the Scottish government[87] and the NTC in Libya[88] until such time as a decision can be made by the new elected government".[89][90]

The United States government has said that it has asked the new Libyan government to re-examine the Megrahi case.[91][92]

On 30 August 2011, the Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said, "The latest pictures broadcast of Mr al-Megrahi clearly demonstrate that he is an extremely sick man, dying of terminal prostate cancer. Hopefully, this will end the ridiculous conspiracy theories that seek to claim anything else."[93] He also said that the issue was under Scottish jurisdiction and that what American lawyers and senators had to say "was neither here nor there".[94]

After the death of Muammar Gaddafi on 20 October 2011, the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for al-Megrahi to be returned to prison in Scotland, describing the release of al-Megrahi as a miscarriage of justice. Additionally Clinton stated that having already raised the question of al-Megrahi's return to a Scottish prison with the leadership of the NTC, she would raise the matter again once a Libyan government had been formed.[95] Clinton also indicated that, while preferring imprisonment in Scotland, she supported imprisonment outside of Scotland over al-Megrahi remaining out of jail.[96] In early November, the US State Department indicated that it was preparing to make a "formal approach" to the NTC, requesting al-Megrahi's extradition to the United States.[97]


Abdelbaset al-Megrahi died at home in Tripoli on 20 May 2012 at the age of 60. His funeral was held the following day, on 21 May.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking at a NATO summit in Chicago, said that it was a day to think of the victims of "an appalling terrorist act".[98] Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond also stated that people should use the occasion of al-Megrahi's death to remember the Lockerbie victims. The Guardian reported that Libyans "expressed relief rather than sadness" at news of al-Megrahi's death, as he was a reminder of the international sanctions that had impoverished the country following the bombing.[99]

Many families of the Lockerbie victims called for al-Megrahi's appeal to be reopened following his death and headed by investigators outside of Scotland, claiming that it would exonerate al-Megrahi. David Cameron refused, stating, "I’m very clear that the court case was properly done and properly dealt with."[100]

Alex Salmond said it was up to Megrahi’s relatives to apply to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission to seek a further appeal, adding that his death "ends one chapter of the Lockerbie case, but it does not close the book".[101]

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  1. "Lockerbie bombing: Megrahi family join fight for a new appeal"
  2. "Megrahi - application for appeal lodged today"
  3. "We need the truth" - Jim Swire
  4. "Megrahi Appeal - What Happens Next?"
  5. "Lockerbie: Mandela and Dr John Cameron's Report"
  6. "Arab League Ministerial Council Re New Call for Al Megrahi Release"
  7. "Lockerbie bomber 'should go free'"
  8. "Lockerbie bomber bail bid fails"
  9. "Lockerbie: was it Iran? Syria? All I know is, it wasn't the man in prison"
  10. "Lockerbie bomber withdraws appeal"
  11. "The Megrahi I know"
  12. "Mandela calls for Lockerbie bomber appeal"
  13. "Mandela takes up bomber's case"
  14. "Bomber freed to avert 'holy war': Lying Labour's key role in handing Megrahi to Libya"
  15. "UK 'lied about Lockerbie bomber'"
  16. "Megrahi's daughter: I want to be a lawyer to help people like my dad"
  17. "Operation Megrahi"
  18. "Lockerbie bomber in cancer battle"
  19. "Aisha, Khaleb and Ghada on protest march in Edinburgh"
  20. "Online petition for Megrahi's compassionate release"
  21. "Letter of Petition to the Scottish Ministers"
  22. "Minister visits Lockerbie bomber"
  23. "'Regrettable actions' over bomber"
  24. "Lockerbie bomber 'to be released'"
  25. "US stands against bomber release"
  26. "Bomber Al-Megrahi drops Lockerbie appeal as release moves closer"
  27. "Lockerbie bomber withdraws appeal"
  28. "Decision reached on bomber's fate"
  29. "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al Megrahi released from jail on compassionate grounds"
  30. "Lockerbie kin: Release of terrorist is 'sickening'"
  31. "Lockerbie bomber returns to hero's welcome and Scottish flag waving in Libya"
  32. "Libya plays down return of Lockerbie bomber"
  33. "The familiar man who helped Megrahi from the plane"
  34. "Megrahi's mother makes plea for release"
  35. "Lockerbie fury grows as Gaddafi meets bomber Megrahi"
  36. "Libya's Gaddafi meets Lockerbie bomber"
  37. "At home with the Lockerbie bomber"
  38. "I'll look at Lockerbie bomber and forgive him"
  39. "Megrahi moved out of intensive care ward"
  40. "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al Megrahi discharged from hospital"
  41. "Charmed Life Of Lockerbie Killer"
  42. "BP and the Lockerbie Bomber: Despite Denials, Signs of a Link?"
  43. "Bomber freed to die is now being given ‘miracle cure’ drug"
  44. "New row over 'non-expert' cancer diagnosis of Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi"
  45. "Lockerbie bomber may live for months yet"
  46. "Lockerbie bomber Megrahi 'may live for many more months'"
  47. "Lockerbie bomber Megrahi may live longer, prognosis under cloud"
  48. "Medical advice on Libyan bomber 'in doubt'"
  49. "Ordinary prison GP – not cancer expert – told MacAskill bomber had three months to live"
  50. "Lockerbie bomber Al Megrahi sent home 'on the advice of just ONE GP'"
  51. "Report to slate MacAskill over early release of Megrahi"
  52. "Justice Secretary under fire as bomber defies threemonth prognosis"
  53. "Dying Lockerbie bomber 'could survive for 10 years or more'"
  54. "Bid to have Lockerbie bomber's medical condition revealed is rejected"
  55. "Release Megrahi Medical Evidence, Tories Demand"
  56. "David Cameron could still order inquiry into Lockerbie bomber release, say senators"
  57. "Lockerbie doctor speaks out over Megrahi comments"
  58. "Megrahi-illness-not-faked-doctors-say"
  59. "Senator Schumer wants Lockerbie bomber back in Scottish prison"
  60. "Libya: Lockerbie bomber asked back to jail"
  61. "Lockerbie bomber seen on TV rally"
  62. "Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi seen at pro-Gaddafi rally in Tripoli"
  63. "Charred bodies, nanny's scars"
  64. "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi says west exaggerated role"
  65. "Convicted Lockerbie bomber taken to hospital: brother"
  66. "Lockerbie bomber's letter found in Tripoli"
  67. "Abdelbaset al-Megrahi 'could be targeted by Osama Bin Laden Navy Seals'"
  68. "Architect of Lockerbie trial vows to fight for an appeal"
  69. "Lockerbie verdict a tragedy for Scottish justice, says Jim Swire"
  70. "Megrahi to be buried in Libya"
  71. "I think the Scottish Justice Secretary is a great man."
  72. "Secret letters reveal Labour's Libyan deal"
  73. "Straw: Megrahi inclusion in Libya prisoner deal was 'in UK interests'"
  74. "Salmond denies Megrahi trade deal"
  75. "US Senators believe BP was behind release"
  76. "David Cameron orders release of secret Lockerbie bomber documents"
  77. "Barack Obama faces rising pressure to publish Lockerbie bomber release letter"
  78. "White House backed release of Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi"
  79. "LeBaron letter"
  80. "Lockerbie bomber Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi releases appeal dossier"
  81. "Law chief 'deplores' bomber claim"
  82. "Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi - My Story"
  85. "WikiLeaks cables: Lockerbie bomber freed after Gaddafi's 'thuggish' threats"
  86. "US Senators call for extradition of Lockerbie bomber"
  87. "No to Megrahi extradition – Salmond"
  88. "Libya rebels say won't extradite Lockerbie bomber"
  89. "US asks rebels to look at Lockerbie case again"
  90. "Libyans have 'other priorities' than Lockerbie bomber"
  91. "Libyan Lockerbie bomber near death, family says"
  92. "US: No plans to tie Libya aid to Lockerbie case"
  93. "Libya: Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi maintains innocence"
  94. "Alex Salmond will not demand Abdel Basset al-Megrahi's extradition"
  95. "Hillary Clinton calls for return of Lockerbie bomber to jail"
  96. "Clinton wants Megrahi back in Scottish jail"
  97. "Father of Lockerbie victim fears US plans to ‘abduct’ Megrahi"
  98. "Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dies in Tripoli"
  99. "Abdelbaset al-Megrahi's death generates little sadness among Libyans"
  100. "New call for Lockerbie inquiry as Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi dies"
  101. "Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi: The Lockerbie bomber is dead"

External links