Lockerbie bomber may be free in a week

Libyan applies for bail pending conviction appeal
Click to follow

The Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, could be freed from prison within a week, after applying for bail pending a decision on his appeal against conviction.

Megrahi, 56, has been diagnosed with an advanced stage of prostate cancer. Doctors say the disease has spread to other parts of his body and he may have only three months to live.

Arguments over his application for interim liberation pending his appeal, which is due to be decided early next year, will be heard next Thursday in Edinburgh. Scotland's Crown Office said: "The Crown will have the opportunity to address the court during the hearing, and it would not be appropriate for the Crown to make its position now outwith the court." Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 from London Heathrow to New York, four days before Christmas 1988, in which 243 passengers and 16 crew were killed. Falling wreckage caused a huge fireball which devastated part of the town of Lockerbie, killing 11 residents.

The former Libyan intelligence agent lost an appeal in 2002, but in June last year the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission referred his case back to appeal judges for a second time. News of Megrahi's diagnosis emerged last week. He had been taken from his cell in Greenock prison, west of Glasgow, last month under tight security, to undergo tests at the Inverclyde Royal Hospital, also in Greenock.

Alex Neil, Scottish National Party MSP for central Scotland, said that in the light of Megrahi's illness he would call upon the Crown Office to speed up the appeal process. Megrahi's solicitor, Tony Kelly, said when the news emerged that speculation as to his client's life expectancy was "unwise", but that his fight to overturn his "wrongful conviction" would go on.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, supported Megrahi's release on bail. "It's intolerable that some five years after this man requested a further appeal against his conviction we still do not even have a start-date for his second appeal," he said. With "greater speed and determination to see this appeal launched," there might not have been the "dilemma of a dying man who may or may not be guilty of the dreadful crime alleged against him".