[This is part of the headline over a report published on the website of The Guardian on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]
Relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster said today they feared vital evidence that could shed more light on the attack would remain hidden after the courts in Scotland granted the bomber's request to drop his appeal.
The families of some of the people who were killed in the attack had hoped the hearings, granted by the Scottish authorities after a three-year investigation, would uncover new details about the bombing that killed 270 people.
"This is the worst possible decision for the relatives," said Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed on board Pan Am flight 103, which exploded as it flew over Lockerbie on 21 December 1988. "There now seems little chance of this evidence being heard and scrutinised in public."
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of murder for his part in the bombing, and who now has terminal prostate cancer, has hinted strongly that he was secretly offered a deal to secure his quick, early, release from prison.
Appeal judges in Edinburgh were told yesterday that the 57-year-old was convinced that abandoning his long-running appeal against his conviction would "assist in the early determination" of the application to be sent back to Libya.
Maggie Scott QC, the head of Megrahi's legal team, increased suspicion of an unofficial deal by saying her client, who is now very weak, in severe pain and distressed, believed he would get home quickly only if he gave up the appeal.
She hinted that Megrahi believed that keeping the appeal "alive" meant the Scottish government would either block or delay his applications for compassionate release, including a separate prisoner transfer bid to be sent home to continue his sentence in a Libyan jail.
"His absolute priority in the little time he has left is to spend it with his family in his homeland," she told the court. "It's the appellant's belief that instructions to abandon his appeal will assist in the early determination of these applications."
Alex Salmond, the first minister, denied the claims, saying his government had "no interest whatsoever" in Megrahi abandoning his appeal, adding that the decision would be made by the justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, only on "the evidence received and the advice received".
He added: "There will be no consideration of international power politics or anything else, it will be taken on the evidence in the interest of justice."
Scotland's government has come under increasing pressure not to release Megrahi in recent days. The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, has phoned MacAskill urging him not to release the Libyan, and yeserday it emerged that seven US senators – including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry – had written to the justice secretary outlining their concerns. But expectations were growing last night that MacAskill was likely to free Megrahi, on compassionate grounds within days, after telling colleagues he was "very close" to a decision. It appeared that MacAskill had already ruled out using the prisoner transfer treaty after it emerged that he had made no attempt to clear away one significant obstacle to Megrahi's transfer.
The lord advocate, Elish Angiolini, is pursuing a separate appeal to get Megrahi's 27-year minimum sentence increased, but under the treaty no transfer can take place if criminal proceedings, including any appeals, are live. However, the next court hearing for Angiolini's appeal will take place on 8 September – at least a week after MacAskill's self-imposed deadline for a decision.
Legal sources said Angiolini had repeatedly told the Scottish government she would make a much quicker decision on dropping her appeal if MacAskill asked, but this request had never been made.
Megrahi was convicted of mass murder in 2001 for the 1988 bombing over Lockerbie, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 people in the Scottish town.
After protracted international pressure he was put on trial with his co-accused, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, under Scots law, at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands. Megrahi was found guilty and ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years. Fhimah was found not guilty and freed.
Relatives of the victims said that though dropping the appeal meant many questions would go unanswered they would not give up their campaign to uncover the truth.
The Rev John Mosey, who lost his 19-year-old daughter, Helga, called the decision "incredibly frustrating" but not unexpected. "The relatives of those who died have been denied access to the evidence that was uncovered by a three-year investigation by the Scottish criminal cases review commission. Unfortunately it is what we expected from the beginning because the authorities – in Scotland, London and Washington – do not want any more information on this coming out."
Jean Berkley, whose son Alistair died in the bombing, agreed the decision was a blow but said the focus would now shift to getting a full independent inquiry. "The families are used to setbacks so we will continue the campaign, but this is difficult because people set lots of store by the appeal and now we are not going to hear the evidence that persuaded the [commission] to grant the hearing in the first place." Alistair's brother, Matt, said: "Many people with a deep understanding of this case have serious concerns about it which are unlikely to go away."