Lockerbie bomber 'should be left to die in peace'

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi in 2009
Image caption Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was expected to die within months of his release in 2009

Many people believe Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi should now be left to die in peace, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has said.

Mr Salmond said it was time to lay to rest the "ridiculous" conspiracy theory he was not dying of prostate cancer.

Megrahi's family has told a CNN TV crew at his home in Tripoli he is close to death and falling in and out of a coma.

Mr Salmond also said he had never considered seeking his extradition, and speculation otherwise was "misguided".

CNN said Megrahi appeared to be "at death's door" and was in the care of his family.

Extradition calls

"The opinion of many, many people is that it might be time as far as Mr Megrahi is concerned to draw a line under that part of the Lockerbie issue and perhaps allow this man now to die in peace," Mr Salmond said.

He added: "We can finally lay to rest the ridiculous conspiracy theory... that somehow Mr Megrahi was not dying of prostate cancer.

"You wouldn't have to be a medical expert to realise that this man is dying, is terminally ill, as we've always said."

Megrahi technically remains a Scottish prisoner after being released on licence from prison in 2009 on compassionate grounds.

There have been calls for him to be returned to jail in the UK or tried in the US, but these were dismissed by Mr Salmond.

"The Scottish government has never had any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr al-Megrahi because he's conformed to his licence conditions," he said.

A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council, with whom Megrahi must keep regular contact, said: "We can confirm that contact with the family was made over the weekend and we will be using that to continue our monitoring role of Mr Megrahi."

Libyan rebel leaders have said they do not intend to allow his extradition.

Megrahi was jailed in 2001 for the bombing of a US plane over Lockerbie, with the loss of 270 lives.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the 1988 attack, said he believed Megrahi was innocent and hoped he was getting decent pain relief at home with his family.

"I feel extremely resentful that the murder of my lovely elder daughter Flora should be embedded in what I'm satisfied is in fact a tissue of lies which led to a politically useful outcome," he said.

CNN reported on Sunday that Megrahi was "comatose" and "near death... surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip" and not eating.

"We just give him oxygen, nobody gives us any advice," Megrahi's son, Khaled, told the US broadcaster.

"There is no doctor. There is nobody to ask. We don't have any phone line to call anybody."

'Shell of a man'

CNN reporter Nic Robertson said he last saw Megrahi two years ago and described his appearance now as "much iller, much sicker, his face is sunken... just a shell of the man he was".

Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Scotland.

The victims of the bombing were mainly US nationals and the decision to release him, taken by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, sparked an angry reaction in the United States.

The former US ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told BBC Radio 5 live that Megrahi should be in jail and called for him to extradited.

"To me it will be a signal of how serious the rebel government is for good relations with the United States and the West if they hand over Megrahi for trial," he said.

"He killed 270 people. He served roughly 10 years in jail before he was released by British authorities. Do the math - that means he served roughly two weeks in prison for every person he killed. Two weeks per murder. That is not nearly enough."

Unknown details

Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband Michael was one of those killed, told BBC Radio 5 live that Megrahi's death would cause regret to some victims' families.

"He was one person in a long line of people who I'm sure was responsible for the bombing and when he dies, some of the knowledge about what happened will go with him," she said.

Image caption Megrahi is the only person to be convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing

Bob Monetti, the father of another victim, said: "Mr Megrahi just probably put the bomb on the plane, but somebody else made it, and somebody else told him to do it, somebody else planned the whole thing out.

"I'd like to find out who those people were, and find out a lot more of the details about what went on and why they did it."

Mohammed al-Alagi, justice minister for the new leadership in Tripoli, said Megrahi had already faced justice when he was tried in Scotland.

"The NTC is busy trying to liberate Libya and it is not mandated to look into Megrahi's fate; that will be the responsibility of the next official Libyan government, once it is formed," he said.

The National Transitional Council is now recognised by Britain as the sole governmental authority for Libya.

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