Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi will be released from a Scottish jail due to his ailing health, Sky News reported — news that, if true, could set off a firestorm of criticism, particularly in the United States, where most of the 270 victims of the bombing were from.
The decision reportedly came after the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill visited al-Megrahi in jail. Sky News reports that a formal announcement is expected next week.
But, MacAskill told Scottish Television Wednesday evening that no decision has yet been made and that a number of options are under consideration, the Associated Press reported.
Al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
In October, the former Libyan intelligence agent, 56, was diagnosed with prostate cancer that reportedly had spread to other parts of his body. But a month later a court refused to free him.
The Court of Criminal Appeal acknowledged that al-Megrahi's cancer was incurable. But the Scottish court said he could not be released on bail pending appeal of his life sentence for the 1988 bombing.
It wasn't immediately clear from the Sky News report what might have prompted MacAskill's apparent intervention.
Victims relatives were furious last week at news of MacAskill's visit and the chance al-Megrahi could be released.
"When are we going to come to the conclusion that what happened happened and we're going to punish the people who did it?," Kathleen Flynn, a New Jersey resident who lost her son J.P. told the Times of London. "My feeling is that when someone has committed a crime as serious as his, why would you decide he should go someplace else? He should be punished in the country that he performed the crime in."
She dismissed claims his health is in danger.
"My husband had prostate cancer," she said. "He had it 10 years ago and he is still alive and well 10 years later."
In May, a Libyan Foreign Ministry official said al-Megrahi would be willing to drop his appeal 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. "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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.