Libya Denies That Lockerbie Bomber In Intensive Care

Libya denied reports Wednesday that the only man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing was taken to intensive care after his illness from terminal prostate cancer worsened.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Seyala, said Abdel Baset al-Megrahi has actually been moved to a special VIP wing of the hospital in Libya's capital, Tripoli, where he is being treated.

"Al-Megrahi is not in a dangerous situation and is receiving full treatment from a team of Libyan doctors," said Seyala.

Al-Megrahi's family said earlier Wednesday that doctors informed them that their relative was moved to intensive care but they had not been allowed to visit him in the unit. They spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of government reaction.

Seyala said the family has not been allowed to visit al-Megrahi in the VIP wing to ensure his safety.

Scottish officials released al-Megrahi from prison on Aug. 20 on compassionate grounds, sparking an international uproar. At the time, Scottish officials said doctors had determined he had less than three months to live.

Libyan officials have said previously that al-Megrahi's health has swiftly deteriorated since he returned home.

On Tuesday, the head of the Libyan State Information Agency, Majid al-Dursi, said al-Megrahi was in the hospital and described him as "very sick."

"His health is deteriorating fast since he arrived," al-Dursi said. Asked how long al-Megrahi could still have to live, he answered: "Only God knows when it will be over. But he is dying now."

Television footage on Britain's Channel 4 Sunday showed al-Megrahi in the hospital, breathing through an oxygen mask and propped up by pillows.

Al-Megrahi was the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board the plane and 11 people on the ground.

His release from prison and warm welcome in Libya, where he was greeted at the airport by cheering supporters, have been sharply criticized by victims' families in the United States, President Barack Obama and FBI director Robert Mueller.

Libya showed a brief video clip of al-Megrahi stepping off the plane from Scotland during a lavish celebration early Wednesday morning marking the 40th anniversary of the coup that brought Moammar Gadhafi to power — a decision that could stoke even more anger.

Scotland has defended al-Megrahi's release, arguing that compassionate release is a standard part of Scottish justice for dying prisoners.

The release also raised questions about whether he was freed to facilitate lucrative oil business with Libya.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown sought Wednesday to beat back criticism, insisting that he gave no assurances to Libya's leaders that the bomber would be freed in exchange for oil contracts.

Scotland has also denied that business interests had anything to do with allowing al-Megrahi to leave prison after completing only eight years of his life sentence. Britain has regional governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that are responsible for local issues but retains power over foreign policy.

Britain has growing economic interests in Libya — from oil exploration to financial services. Last year, British imports from Libya topped some 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion).

Libya spent years under U.N. and U.S. sanctions because of Lockerbie and was isolated as a sponsor of terrorism for alleged involvement in other attacks.

It began to rehabilitate itself by agreeing in 1999 to hand al-Megrahi over for trial in the bombing. Gadhafi also renounced his weapons of mass destruction program and accepted responsibility for the attack, paving the way for the sanctions to be removed.

European nations and the United States restored ties with Tripoli, and in recent years the oil-rich North African nation has started to enjoy increasing international acceptance.