Lockerbie bomber drops his appeal
Scottish officials consider release
EDINBURGH - The only man found guilty in the 1988 airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, is dropping his appeal, his lawyers said yesterday - removing an obstacle to his possible transfer to Libya, but disappointing activists who believe he is innocent.
Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi’s lawyer, Tony Kelly, said his client, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer, filed papers to drop his appeal because his health had deteriorated.
“His condition has taken a significant turn for the worse in recent weeks,’’ the lawyer said.
British broadcasters reported this week, without citing sources, that Megrahi had been given just months to live and would be released early from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds.
The former Libyan secret service agent was convicted in the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, which killed 270 people - most of them Americans. It was the deadliest terrorist attack ever committed in Britain.
The United States has firmly objected to reports that Megrahi might be released.
P.J. Crowley, State Department spokesman, told reporters yesterday that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had called Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill of Scotland in the past day and “expressed strongly’’ the US view that “Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland for his part in the bombing of the Pan Am 103 flight.’’
Crowley said the US attorney general, Eric Holder, also had called MacAskill in the past few days.
“Our interest is justice, and our interest is the commitment that we made to the families’’ of the victims, Crowley said.
“He was brought to trial. He had a fair trial. He was convicted. He’s serving his time. And we think he should stay in jail,’’ he added.
The Scottish government said it has yet to decide on his request for early release. They are also considering whether to allow Megrahi to serve the rest of his sentence in Libya.
A Scottish government spokesman confirmed MacAskill had spoken to Clinton and told her “that he was still considering matters.’’
Megrahi was arrested in 1991 and held under house arrest in Libya until 1998, when he was handed over to Britain. He was convicted in 2001 by a special Scottish court held at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands.
Megrahi was told earlier this year that he had to drop the appeal before he could be considered for a prison transfer to Libya. No transfer can occur while legal proceedings are ongoing. He would not have to drop the appeal, however, to be freed on compassionate grounds.
The reports have angered relatives of some Lockerbie victims. But other relatives are convinced that Megrahi was not behind the bombing.