Published May 06, 2009
LONDON – The only person jailed over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing said he would drop his appeal against conviction — provided Britain allows him to serve the rest of sentence in Libya, a visiting Libyan official said Wednesday.
Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who is terminally ill with cancer, was found guilty of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in an attack that killed 270 people. He has been fighting his conviction in a Scottish court, but a Libyan Foreign Ministry official said al-Megrahi would be willing to drop the case.
"He is sick. He has cancer. There is no cure for his case. He told me that he wants to die among his family and friends in his country," said Abdel Atti el-Ubaidi, who is leading a Libyan delegation to London. "Al-Megrahi said that he is ready to drop the appeal if he is guaranteed that he will be transferred to Libya."
Libya has accepted responsibility for the attack, paying out millions of dollars in compensation to the families of the victims and handing over suspects including al-Megrahi for prosecution.
But al-Megrahi's lawyers, in attempting to clear their client's name, have said the attack was actually the result of an Iranian-financed Palestinian plot.
Al-Megrahi's lawyers have said British and U.S. authorities tampered with evidence, disregarded witness statements and steered investigators toward the conclusion that Libya, not Iran, was to blame.
Another Libyan, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, were prosecuted alongside al-Megrahi in The Hague, Netherlands, in 2001, but Fhimah was acquitted.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's decision to accept responsibility for the Lockerbie attack at the same time as he renounced Libya's weapons of mass destruction program led to the United States lifting sanctions against Tripoli.
Al-Megrahi's appeal, which has been under review since April 28 at Edinburgh's High Court, points to an exhaustive 2007 legal review by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board raised questions about evidence used to convict al-Megrahi.
Relatives of the victims expressed dismay Wednesday at the news that al-Megrahi might be sent to Libya.
Scottish lawmaker Christine Grahame said she believed al-Megrahi would succeed in clearing his name if he can complete the appeal process, but she said it was "understandable, on a personal level, why he would want to return to his homeland given his failing health."
She called for a public inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing, even if al-Megrahi were no longer in the country.
Robert Monetti, from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, whose son Rick died in the blast, said "the American families are incredibly opposed to letting al-Megrahi out of Scotland."
"As a group we are generally convinced that he is guilty and ought to serve his sentence" in Britain, Monetti said.
El-Ubaidi, the Libyan official, said he made a request to Scottish officials Tuesday to drop the appeal. Scotland's government confirmed receiving the request, and said a decision could take three months or longer. Scotland had said it would not repatriate him while his appeal was being heard.
Meanwhile, appeals proceedings were held Wednesday at the court in Edinburgh. Al-Megrahi's lawyer Tony Kelly declined comment, prosecution spokesman Kevin Bell said the appeal was expected to continue.