EDINBURGH, Scotland – A former Libyan intelligence agent may have been wrongly convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, a judicial panel said Thursday, recommending that he be granted a new appeal.
Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who is serving a life sentence, was the only person convicted for the bombing, which killed 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground, including 179 Americans.
"The commission is of the view, based upon our lengthy investigations, new evidence we have found and other evidence which was not before the trial court, that the applicant may have suffered a miscarriage of justice," the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said in a statement summarizing its 800-page report.
The Court of Appeal will consider the report and decide whether an appeal is warranted.
The Libyan intelligence agent has always maintained his innocence, and the commission, an independent judicial body that investigates possible miscarriages of justice, appeared to side with him.
Al-Megrahi's lawyers claim that authorities in Britain and the United States tampered with evidence, disregarded witness statements and steered investigators away from evidence that the bombing was an Iranian-financed plot carried out by Palestinians as revenge for the shooting down of a civilian Iranian airliner by U.S. forces several months earlier.
Families of some of the Lockerbie victims also have argued that his 2001 conviction was unsound.
Al-Megrahi was convicted of the murder of the passengers who died when Flight 103 from London to New York was blown up over Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988. An initial appeal was rejected in 2002. Another Libyan suspect was acquitted.
In 2003, the Libyan government agreed to pay $270 million in compensation to families of the Lockerbie victims, under a deal which paved the way for the lifting of U.N. sanctions against Moammar Gadhafi's regime. But Libyan authorities have never formally admitted guilt.