Thursday 13 August 2009

Lockerbie bomber 'to be released'

The Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is likely to be freed on compassionate grounds next week, the BBC understands. (...)

Scottish ministers described the development as "complete speculation".

Kathleen Flynn, whose son died on the plane, told the BBC she was horrified the "terrorist" could be released.

She added that he showed no mercy as he planted his bomb and should "never qualify for anything compassionate".

"Did Megrahi as he planted a bomb on a US airliner reflect on any compassion for the people he was about to blow up out of the skies and the people on the ground in Lockerbie? I think not," she said.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford in Washington said "broadly" families in Scotland were concerned about the conviction, whereas US relatives were convinced of his guilt. (...)

It is believed UK and Libyan officials have held talks this week over Megrahi's appeal against his conviction.

The speed of his transfer is thought to be influenced by consensus among all parties that Megrahi be back on Libyan soil in time for Ramadan next week.

News of his release came after Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill visited Megrahi in prison, amid speculation he might be moved to Libya.

A prisoner transfer request was made by Libya to the UK government last May, less than a week after a treaty allowing prisoners to be transferred between the two countries was ratified.

But a spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said: "No decision has been taken, either on the application for compassionate release or the application under the prisoner transfer agreement and so it is entirely speculation."

A Scottish Government spokesman added that a decision was expected from Mr MacAskill this month.

[From a report on the BBC News website. The full text can be read here.

A sidebar by the BBC Scotland political correspondent Glenn Campbell reads:

'I understand preparations for Mr Megrahi's release are being made in time for him to be home with his family in Libya by Ramadan, which starts next Friday.

'The Parole Board for Scotland has been asked to give its opinion on compassionate release.

'The Libyan authorities - who have held high level talks with the Scottish justice secretary in recent days - have also been advised to make plans to fly Mr Megrahi back to Tripoli.

'The Scottish Government is right to say "no decision has been taken" - but that should change in the next few days and the likelihood is Mr Megrahi will return to Libya by next weekend.' ]

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