By Ann Flower Seyse
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East
LONDON, United Kingdom– Libyan authorities have formally asked Scotland for the compassionate release of Abdel Basset al Megrahi. Megrahi is the former Libyan agent that was sentenced to life in 2001 for the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.
A Scottish government spokeswoman confirmed the application for compassionate release on July 25. Libya has been bringing up al Megrahi often in official conversations with Great Britain. Earlier in July Megrahi’s fate was brought up by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The British government has deferred the issue to Scotland, which has a separate legal system from Britain. Now Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will consider whether or not to grant the application.
Al Megrahi is currently appealing his conviction for the second time, but the hearing is not expected to conclude until next year. Fifty- seven year old al Megrahi was diagnosed with terminal testicular cancer last year. His doctors do not believe that he would live to the end of the appeal.
The Lockerbie bombing resulted in the deaths of all 259 people on board the London to New York flight, as well as eleven people on the ground. Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing in 2005, and agreed to pay 2.7 billion dollars in compensation to the victim’s families. This gesture helped to restore relations between Libya and the west. This announcement shifted public perspective on al Megrahi. Originally al Megrahi was perceived as being solely responsible for the bombing and after Libya claimed reponsibility, al Megrahi was viewed more as an agent of Libya following his orders. Even some relatives of victims of the bombings support sending al Megrahi home, doubting both his guilt and the conviction.
Ultimately the decision to release al Megrahi lies with the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, who has ninety days to make his decision. It is expected MacAskill will make his decision in the first week of August. Last year he released three prisoners on compassionate requests, although typically only people with three months to live or less are released.
For more information please see,
The Guardian – Sick Lockerbie Bomber Pleads for Release – 26 July 2009
AFP – Lockerbie Bomber asks for Compassionate Release – 25 July 2009
BBC – Ill Megrahi Seeks Prison Release – 25 July 2009
The Herald – Megrahi Requests Release from Jail on Compassionate Grounds – 25 July 2009
Reuters – Libya asks for Lockerbie Bomber to be Freed – 25 July 2009