Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Lockerbie bomber: al-Megrahi saga about to end after 23 years

[This is the headline over a report in today's edition of The Guardian. It reads in part:]

The gate of the luxury mansion remained firmly shut. It was clear Abdelnasser al-Megrahi had no intention of letting anyone pass. The world would have to accept it was time to let go of his dying brother. A grim saga that began 23 years ago and 2,000 miles away was all but at an end.

A short distance away lay the cancer-ridden body of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. It was evident on Monday that the campaign for his extradition from Libya was effectively over.

Calls for his re-arrest from US senators, lawyers and relatives of the Lockerbie bombing appeared redundant given Megrahi's condition, apparently close to death, filmed at his mother's house on Sunday and broadcast around the world. (...)

Asked about Megrahi's condition, he [Abdelnasser Megrahi] replied: "He is very sick. The coma came two or three months ago. Sometimes he speaks to his wife or mother, sometimes he is in a coma. His life is in danger now."

He reiterated that his brother had been without proper medical attention for several days. "Medicines have been stolen and we couldn't get them. He did have professional doctors from Italy and Germany and England, but now there is no one, only the doctor here. "

He said the family had emailed a medical report to the Scottish government – with whom Megrahi is obliged to be in regular contact – on Sunday and requested that it send medicine. [RB: This aspect of the saga is the subject of a long article in today's edition of the Daily Mail and another in The Scotsman.]

Abdelnasser Megrahi also insisted that his brother was not guilty of the Lockerbie bombing. "From day one I believed he was innocent. The case was more political than a crime. There is no actual evidence. The world knows my brother is innocent."

He said Megrahi receives messages of support from Scotland and around the world and criticised the US for continuing to demand his extradition. "He was released by the court. He did not escape. The Americans are being too cruel. They don't even respect him as human being because of his condition."

The American effort now seems increasingly futile. Scottish first minister, Alex Salmond, said recent speculation about Megrahi's disappearance had been "completely inaccurate". Salmond told Sky News: "The only people who have any authority in this matter are the Scottish government, who have jurisdiction in this matter … and the new Libyan transitional council, who are the new duly constituted legal authority in Libya.

"We have never had and don't have any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr Megrahi. It's quite clear from the Libyan transitional council that following their own laws that they'd never any intention of agreeing to such extradition."

Andrew Mitchell, the UK government's secretary for international development, said the question was now moot: "It's clear that many of these matters are now academic as his life is drawing to a close... It's clear from reports today that he has not got much longer to live."

The Obama administration said that the Libyan rebels' National Transitional Council (NTC) had agreed to review Megrahi's case once it has established a fully functioning government.

State department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said: "This is a guy with blood on his hands, the lives of innocents. Libya itself under Gaddafi made a hero of this guy. Presumably, a new, free, democratic Libya would have a different attitude towards a convicted terrorist. So it is in that spirit the NTC will look at this case." (...)

John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, said Megrahi should have received the death penalty.

"To me it will be a signal of how serious the rebel government is for good relations with the United States and the west if they hand over Megrahi for trial," he said. "He killed 270 people. He served roughly 10 years in jail before he was released by British authorities. Do the math – that means he served roughly two weeks in prison for every person he killed. Two weeks per murder. That is not nearly enough."

[A report from Tripoli by David Pratt headlined Uncertainty over Megrahi’s status will fuel political row appears in today's edition of The Herald.

Fox News and some US Lockerbie relatives think the CNN report and pictures are a scam. A report in The Daily Beast goes along the same road.]

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