Dying Lockerbie bomber seeks bail

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The Independent Online

A "compelling case" exists for releasing the cancer-stricken Lockerbie bomber on bail pending his appeal, a court heard yesterday.

Appeal court judges heard that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was terminally ill and should be released on compassionate grounds, because he is nearing death.

Megrahi's defence team at the Court of Criminal Appeal, in Edinburgh, said the former Libyan intelligence agent did not have long to live and should be released in order to reside with his family in Scotland while receiving medical treatment.

But prosecutors argue that the gravity of the offence means that he should remain in jail at HMP Greenock.

Megrahi, 56, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, which led to the deaths of 270 people.

Maggie Scott, for the defence, told the hearing yesterday: "The appellant is terminally ill. His suffering will be reduced if he is released from prison conditions. He is very ill and does not have long to live, so bail is therefore sought on compassionate grounds." Ms Scott added: "There is a compelling case for the release of this man on interim liberation."

Ronnie Clancy QC, for the prosecution, said that the gravity of the offence was the Crown's primary argument against granting bail.

"The crime of which the appellant stands convicted is one of incomprehensible gravity," he said.

The judges have now retired to consider whether Megrahi will be granted interim bail ahead of his appeal, which is due to take place next year.

A decision is expected later.