[What follows is an item originally posted on this blog on this date in 2009:]
Megrahi requests release from jail on compassionate grounds
[This is the headline over Lucy Adams's coverage in The Herald of the story that was broken yesterday on this blog. Her article can be read here. The following are extracts:]
The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing has applied to Scottish ministers for release on compassionate grounds, a move which if granted would allow him to return to Libya without dropping his appeal.
Ministers received the application yesterday from Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, who was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer last year.
As with the case of prisoner transfer, the decision rests with Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary. Unlike prisoner transfer, compassionate release does not require the prisoner to abandon any ongoing legal proceedings.
The Justice Secretary is thought to have released three terminally ill patients on compassionate grounds last year. Traditionally, only applications from those with three months to live are granted.
In May the Libyan government applied for prisoner transfer of Megrahi, the 57-year-old serving 27 years in Greenock prison for the bombing which killed 270 people in December 1988. (...)
Mr MacAskill is expected to make a decision on the transfer in the first week in August, but there has been some confusion about how the prisoner transfer agreement works. One legal expert said that ministers must give Megrahi a decision "in principle" before he drops proceedings, but officials say that is not the case.
It is thought that some of the US relatives of the victims of the tragedy would push for a judicial review if Mr MacAskill agrees to Megrahi's transfer back to Libya. Many of them are angry that the transfer is even being considered.
The families have taken legal advice in both London and Scotland. Judicial review could significantly delay Megrahi's return to Libya, but compassionate release is not subject to judicial review.
Professor Robert Black, one of the architects of Megrahi's trial in the Netherlands, said: "Compassionate release seems to achieve the humanitarian objective of allowing Megrahi to die in his homeland among his extended family, along with the public interest and criminal justice objectives of allowing a court to rule upon the validity of an appeal in the case of a conviction that has been increasingly called into question."
[The Scotsman also covers the story. Its article reads in part:]
An e-mail sent yesterday from the Crown Office to relatives of those who died said: "It has been confirmed that the Scottish Government has today received an application for compassionate release on behalf of Megrahi.
"We understand that this application will now be considered by the Scottish Government in tandem with the previous application for Prisoner Transfer."
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: "We can confirm an application for compassionate release has been made by Mr al-Megrahi, and forwarded by the Libyan government to the Scottish ministers.
"Scottish ministers will not comment on the content of the application and will now seek advice on the application."
[The BBC News website has now picked up the story, which can be read here.]