Scotland

Lockerbie bomber: Alex Salmond says remember the victims

A plane was blown up over Lockerbie leaving 270 people dead

First Minister Alex Salmond has said the victims of the Lockerbie bombing should be remembered, after the death of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of carrying out the 1988 bombing, which killed 270 people.

He was returned to Libya on compassionate grounds in August 2009 after serving 10 years in jail.

Mr Salmond said: "Today should be about remembering the victims of the Lockerbie bombing."

He said there was still a live investigation and that the Crown Office never believed Megrahi was the only person responsible for the bombing.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, the first minister added: "The first thing we should remember is the victims of the Lockerbie atrocity, they've been suffering from this for 23 years now.

"Mr Megrahi's death is not unexpected, he was dying from terminal prostate cancer, what today's news does do of course is lay to rest the variety of conspiracy theories that somehow this illness had been manufactured.

"But clearly the decision to release him on compassionate grounds was made on that basis and now he has died of that condition."

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, said: "The investigation into the Lockerbie bombing will continue, to bring to justice the others involved in this act of state-sponsored terrorism."

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie bombing, said the death was "sad" news.

He added: "I grit my teeth every time I hear newscasters say that the Lockerbie bomber has died, because he's the man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing.

"I think Scotland has a big question to answer as to why his verdict hasn't long since been reviewed.

"But, putting that aside, this is a sad day.

"Last time I met him, in December, I think we both knew we were saying goodbye to each other. He was in a lot of pain and his demise now at least has relieved his pain for him.

"So, from now on, perhaps we can concentrate on trying to find out who did murder my daughter and all those other people."

The Scottish government, Scottish Prison Service and East Renfrewshire Council had earlier been waiting for official details of the bomber's death to be released.

Megrahi was technically a Scottish prisoner released on licence and was obliged to remain in regular contact with East Renfrewshire Council.

The Libyan's brother told news agencies he died at home in the country's capital Tripoli.

Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted in connection with the attack, which saw flight Pan Am Flight 103 blown up over Lockerbie.

He was released by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill after being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and was allowed to return to Libya.

Megrahi had always spoken of his innocence.

'No celebration'

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "Megrahi was convicted by a Scots court, under Scots law, of the greatest act of mass murder in Scottish history.

"Three years ago the Scottish government chose to release him on the pretext he had just three months to live. That was an insult to the victims.

"At this moment let me, on behalf of the people of Scotland, apologise to the families of all the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, for his early release."

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: "Although this is an end to a chapter of one of the worst terrorist events in Scotland there should be no celebration that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has died.

"Instead it should act as a spur to establish the facts including whether crucial forensic evidence was withheld from the trial."

'Quest goes on'

Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale Conservative MP David Mundell said: "Obviously, one commiserates with family members at the time of a death, whatever the circumstances.

"Mr Megrahi's passing is the end of a chapter, but not the end of the story that has unfolded since that terrible night in 1988.

"It will not bring closure to all those bereaved or otherwise caught up in that tragic event and who want answers.

"So, that quest goes on and I still hope that the new regime in Libya can play a part in delivering those answers."

BBC Scotland Investigates: Megrahi - The Legacy of Lockerbie is broadcast at 20:30 on BBC One Scotland.

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