Most of the Scottish and UK Sunday newspapers have lengthy articles, commentaries and features on the past week's developments in the saga of the fate of Abdelbaset Megrahi. They consider the implications of his decision to abandon his appeal for the man himself, for the relatives of those killed at Lockerbie, for the nations most closely involved and for the Scottish criminal justice system. With one exception, all of them assume that Mr Megrahi will be repatriated later this week. The exception is Scotland on Sunday which has a report by Political Editor Eddie Barnes headed "Lockerbie bomber faces death in jail" which reads in part:
'The Lockerbie bomber's health has deteriorated to the point that he may die before any decision is made about his release from jail, Scotland on Sunday has discovered.
'Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is believed to be no longer receiving treatment for his prostate cancer but having pain relief offered to those in the final stages of the disease.
'Government sources confirmed yesterday that justice secretary Kenny MacAskill will not reveal his decision on whether or not to release the convicted terrorist this week, and may even take until the end of the month before showing his hand. (...)
'It had been widely expected that MacAskill would make his decision this week.
'But Scotland on Sunday has been told that a decision this week "can be ruled out", as MacAskill is awaiting more submissions from the prison governor at Greenock and the Scottish Parole Board.'
A further article entitled "The end game: The fate of Lockerbie bomber" in the same newspaper can be read here The first of these articles should be contrasted with one appearing in the Sunday Mail which can be read here. The Mail on Sunday has an article to the effect that the consultants treating Mr Megrahi have reported that he has no longer than three months to live.
The Sunday Herald's coverage consists of a four-page spread headed "Lockerbie: after the conspiracies ... the cover up?" This is divided into sections entitled "MacAskill in the eye of the storm"; "The legal system has nothing to be ashamed of ... unlike Holyrood" by Scottish Tory legal spokesman Paul McBride QC; "I will never rest until I know who killed my daughter ... and why" on the reactions of relatives such as Dr Jim Swire; "An inquiry is the only hope of getting a new criminal probe" on the case for setting up an inquiry now that the appeal is being abandoned; and "A potent mix of politics and oil" on the politics that may lie behind abandonment of the appeal and repatriation.
The same newspaper has another article headlined "Holyrood set to back calls for Lockerbie public inquiry". It reads in part:
'The Scottish government is likely to back a comprehensive public inquiry into the Lockerbie disaster after all legal proceedings are resolved. First minister Alex Salmond's administration is said to be "very relaxed" about either a United Nations probe or a joint inquiry between Holyrood and Westminster into the terrorist atrocity.
'It is understood a stand-alone Scottish investigation has been downplayed as an option due to the limited powers the SNP government would have to compel witnesses. (...)
'The families of the 270 victims fear that dropping the appeal will end the possibility of finding out the truth behind the worst terrorist act on British soil.
'However, it is understood the Scottish government has accepted a public inquiry into the disaster should take place once Megrahi is home and his appeal has been dropped.
'Officials have explored the possibility of Salmond's administration launching its own inquiry, but the idea has been deemed a non-starter.
'This is because the terms of the Scotland Act, which sets out the powers of the devolved parliament, would hinder an inquiry's ability to demand documents and compel witnesses to give evidence. It is understood Salmond's government would prefer a joint cross-border inquiry with Westminster, which would have far greater powers.
'Another option would be for the United Nations to launch an investigation that would command international co-operation.
'However, Professor Robert Black of Edinburgh University law school said the UK government would never consent to a cross-border investigation, adding that a stand-alone Scottish inquiry would be valuable.
'"It would look at the Scottish criminal justice system and all its aspects: investigation, prosecution and adjudication. All of them are within the powers of the Scottish government and Scottish parliament.
'"It wouldn't satisfy the relatives, whose primary concern is to know what happened, but to me and the people of Scotland, knowing how the criminal justice system works seems a very important goal and one which can be achieved within Scotland."'
The Sunday Times publishes an article headed "US blamed Iran for Lockerbie bomb". It reads in part:
'American intelligence documents blaming Iran for the Lockerbie bombing would have been produced in court if the Libyan convicted of Britain’s worst terrorist attack had not dropped his appeal.
'Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer expected to be freed this week, had instructed his lawyers to produce US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) cables implicating the so-called “rogue state”.
'The memo suggests Iran was behind the attack on Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people in 1988, in response to the shooting down of an Iranian commercial airliner by the USS Vincennes, an American warship, five months earlier.
'One document the defence team had planned to produce was a memo from the DIA dated September 24, 1989. It states: “The bombing of the Pan Am flight was conceived, authorised and financed by Ali-Akbar Mohtashemi-Pur, Iran’s former interior minister.
'“The execution of the operation was contracted to Ahmad [Jibril], Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine General Command (PFLP-GC) leader, for a sum of $1m (£600,700).
'“$100,000 of this money was given to Jibril up front in Damascus by the Iranian ambassador to Sy [Syria], Muhammad Hussan [Akhari] for initial expenses. The remainder of the money was to be paid after successful completion of the mission.”
'The document is included in an unpublished report by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, a public body which considers miscarriage of justice claims, and which in 2007 cast doubt on the safety of Megrahi’s conviction.
'The report also cites a DIA briefing in December 1989 entitled “Pan Am 103, Deadly Co-operation” which named Iran as the likely state sponsor of the bombing.
'The briefing stated that the PFLP-GC was “fast becoming an Iranian proxy” and that the destruction of Pan Am flight 103 to avenge the shooting down of the Iran Air 655 airbus may have been the result of such Iranian and PFLP-GC co-operation.
'The DIA briefing discounted Libya’s involvement in the bombing on the basis that there was “no current credible intelligence” implicating her. It stated: “Following a brief increase in anti-US terrorist attacks after the US airstrike on Libya [in 1986], Gaddafi has made an effort to distance Libya from terrorist attacks.”
'Robert Baer, a retired senior CIA agent who claims Iran was behind the attack, has alleged that the Americans were wary of pursuing the country in case it disrupted oil supplies and damaged the economy.'