Friday, 3 June 2016

Mandela's visit to Megrahi

[What follows is the text of a report published in The Independent on this date in 2002:]

Nelson Mandela is expected to fly to Britain this week for a compassionate meeting with the Libyan agent serving a 20-year sentence in a Scottish prison for his part in the Lockerbie bombing.
The former South African President is known to have sympathy for Abdelbaset Ali Mohammed al-Megrahi, who was jailed for his part in the terrorist outrage which killed 270 people. Mr Mandela is keen to reciprocate the support he received from Libya during the 27 years he was a political prisoner of South Africa's apartheid regime.
Megrahi has always protested that he did not help to destroy Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988. Despite losing an appeal against his conviction in March this year, his lawyers are planning an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on 15 September and hope a show of support from Mr Mandela will help their case that their client was tried unfairly. Mr Mandela played a pivotal role in helping to break the diplomatic deadlock between Libya, the US and Britain that allowed the trial of Megrahi in Holland under Scottish jurisdiction.
Yesterday a spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service said no formal application had been made for a visit from Mr Mandela. But a spokesman for Megrahi's legal team said they hoped the visit would be this week.
Mr Mandela is visiting the Netherlands and aides have said that if he is well enough to travel and his schedule allows it, then he would visit Megrahi. The visit is being supported by Tam Dalyell, the veteran Labour MP and Father of the House, who has voiced his own belief that Megrahi is innocent. "I hope Mr Mandela will visit and come to the same conclusion I did, which is that Mr Megrahi had nothing to do with the Lockerbie bomb."
Yesterday, a spokesman for Megrahi's legal team said no concrete plans had been made for a visit but confirmed that Mr Mandela was sympathetic to their case. He added: "I cannot say for certain whether he will be coming to Scotland but I do know that it is his desire to come to Scotland to visit my client and, perhaps not surprisingly, Mr Megrahi is keen that President Mandela finds the time to come to so see him.
"President Mandela, when in prison himself, received substantial support from Libya. President Mandela has a fondness for Libya and support for it."
[RB: The visit took place one week later on 10 June 2002.]

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