TRIPOLI, Libya – A Libyan official said the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has been hospitalized and television footage showed him breathing through an oxygen mask, signs his illness from cancer may be worsening shortly after his early prison release sparked international outrage.
The Libyan Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Siala, said Monday that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was in the hospital and described him as a "dying man."
"He is in the hospital, he is a dying man, it is normal than he came to spend his last few days in Libya," Siala told The Associated Press.
His comments came after Britain's Channel 4 television Sunday night showed footage of the 57-year-old al-Megrahi in a Tripoli hospital bed propped up by pillows and wearing an oxygen mask while some members of his family stood nearby. A reporter can be heard asking al-Megrahi a question about his case but al-Megrahi appears too weak to answer.
Al-Megrahi was convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, killing 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground. Scotland released him Aug. 20 on compassionate grounds because doctors said he was dying of prostate cancer.
His release and return to Libya where he was greeted warmly at the airport by hundreds of cheering supporters has led to outrage from many of the Lockerbie victims and questions about whether his release was secured in order to facilitate lucrative oil trade with Libya.
Both Britain and Scotland have denied that business had anything to do with allowing al-Megrahi to leave prison after completing only eight years of his life sentence.
There was no way to independently verify al-Megrahi's condition, and the Libyan official offered no further details. Al-Megrahi underwent extensive medical testing before Scottish officials confirmed his cancer diagnosis, but questions have been raised about the seriousness of his condition.
The London-based Asharq Al-Awssat newspaper last Wednesday quoted al-Megrahi's father as saying that the former Libyan inmate was not dying.
"It is not that serious as some news media have been portraying," Ali al-Megrahi told the newspaper. "I see he is improving day by day, and he is better than the day he returned."