South Scotland

US Senators call for extradition of Lockerbie bomber

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Image caption Megrahi was freed after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer

Two US senators have demanded the extradition of the Lockerbie bomber from Libya, on the second anniversary of his release from prison in Scotland.

Terminally-ill Abdelbasset al Megrahi was freed by Scottish ministers on compassionate grounds.

New Jersey senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg want the rebel-led transitional Libyan government to send Megrahi to the US.

Megrahi was jailed in 2001 for the plane bombing in 1988.

He returned home to Tripoli following his release from Greenock Prison, after medical experts said he may only have three months to live.

Meanwhile, the Scottish government used the anniversary to insist it had been "vindicated" over its move after two years of scrutiny, saying the decision was made on compassionate grounds - not on economic, political or diplomatic factors.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill's decision to release Megrahi on 20 August 2009 sparked international condemnation from some relatives of victims and politicians, including US President Barack Obama - but also attracted high-profile support from figures such as Nelson Mandela.

Senators Menendez and Lautenberg - who have long-opposed Megrahi's release and represent the views of the families of some of the American victims - want Megrahi in a US jail cell.

Senator Menendez, said: "It has been two years since we were told that al-Megrahi was released because he supposedly had just three months to live; it has been two years since he was allowed to return to Libya; and it has been only a few short weeks since he was seen attending a rally in support of his old friend, Muammar Qaddafi.

"The first act of the Transitional National Council, as the legitimate government of Libya, should be to extradite al-Megrahi to the United States to answer for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 to signal to the world that a new Libya has every intention to adhere to international law."

Senator Lautenberg added: "The Lockerbie bomber is a convicted terrorist with American blood on his hands.

"He should never have been released from prison and it is sickening to watch him treated as a hero in Libya."

The bombing of Pam Am flight 103 over the borders town of Lockerbie, which resulted in the deaths of 270 people, remains the worst terrorist attack carried out on British soil.

A spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, said: "Two years of extensive scrutiny, under three jurisdictions, vindicates the position that the justice secretary released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone.

"Regardless of people's views, they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of Scots law, and without any consideration of the economic, political and diplomatic factors that the then UK government based its position on.

"Whether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and al-Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer."

A leading cancer specialist has said it was likely the convicted bomber was being kept alive by pills not available in the UK.

Prof Kirby, of The Prostate Centre in London, said he believed Megrahi was "almost certainly" being kept alive by a hormone-based therapy called abiraterone.

Meanwhile, the author helping Megrahi write his memoirs has told BBC Scotland that the convicted bomber wants the public to "know the truth" about the case.

Image caption Megrahi was recently seen on Libyan television attending a gathering in Tripoli

Speaking ahead of the second anniversary of his release, British journalist John Ashton, who worked as a researcher alongside Megrahi's legal team, said the Libyan wanted evidence which would have been heard during his appeal to finally be made public.

Mr Ashton said: "His dream was always to overturn his conviction and to achieve freedom through that.

"When he made the decision to go home and abandon his appeal he called me in and said that he wanted me to write a book because he wanted the public to the know the truth.

"He wanted them to know the evidence that would have been heard during the appeal."

The author also echoed concerns raised by others that Megrahi may be attacked by or handed over to US forces in Libya.

He added: "If we are to believe what we read then yes he is under threat because the rebels have promised to hand him over to the Americans, apparently, and the Americans have said they are going to take him back to America and try him there, which is ridiculous and illegal."

Relatives of victims of the Lockerbie bombing are still looking for clarity and answers.

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."

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