Fears voiced for Megrahi safety

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The Independent Online

A father who lost his daughter in the Lockerbie bombing said today he was concerned for the safety of the man convicted of the atrocity as he announced he was stepping down from frontline campaigning.

Dr Jim Swire, who has been a spokesman for UK Families Flight 103, which represented British relatives, said he was concerned US special forces could kill Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

Megrahi, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer, was released from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds, after serving nearly eight years of a 27 year sentence for killing 270 people.

Of those, 259 victims were on Pan Am Flight 103, with 11 residents killed by falling wreckage after it exploded over Lockerbie, in Dumfries and Galloway, on December 21, 1988.

Dr Swire's daughter Flora was killed in the bombing.

The former GP, who lives in Chipping Campden and believes Megrahi is innocent, said: "I am worried for him. I can just see the unit they sent to kill Osama bin Laden being sent to extract Megrahi.

"Presumably, they wouldn't extract him but kill him on the spot."

Dr Swire said he was stepping down from frontline campaigning as a group of British lawyers, including QCs, were keen to look at evidence from Megrahi's trial.

"There's a whole cohort of senior lawyers who are keen to get involved," he added.

Dr Swire also said the emergence of the Justice For Megrahi campaign group was another reason for his decision.

Dr Swire continued: "Both I and my family feel it's time to leave it to younger hands.

"Right from day one we felt that we wanted to try and force something good to come out of something so evil as this.

"In the early years that took the form of hoping to improve relations between Libya and Britain and that did seem to be working."

He was speaking as a poll for the Sunday Times showed 48% of 1,121 adults questioned in the UK said Megrahi should resume his sentence in a Scottish prison as the two-year anniversary of his release looms.

A total of 32% said he should resume his sentence in a Libyan prison and 65% believe he was guilty of the bombing, according to the survey by Panelbase.

Terminally-ill Megrahi has also reportedly seen a further development in his cancer.

A Libyan government official told the Mail on Sunday: "His health has taken another turn for the worse after doctors discovered a growth on his neck.

"For the cancer to reach a part of the body so far away from the prostate confirms that Brother Megrahi's body is now ravaged by the disease."

Dr Swire was born at Windsor Castle, where his father was stationed in the Army at the time, and grew up for part of his life on the Isle of Skye.

He also heard evidence during Megrahi's trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands before the Libyan was convicted of the bombing in 2001.

Dr Swire said he "emerged from the court" thinking Megrahi had been framed and his view was that the guilty verdict should never have been "brought in".

"Initially it was a very scary position to be in because I got a lot of hate mail and stuff for daring to suggest that this man was not really guilty at all," he added.

Dr Swire, 75, said he first met Megrahi face-to-face at Greenock prison in 2008 and last visited him in Tripoli, at his request, in September last year.

But he said he has not been able to get in contact with Megrahi and has had no response from officials in Libya.

He continued: "The Scottish authorities claim that they still have contact. I would like to know how they managed that because I would love to have contact."

Dr Swire said he just wanted the truth about who murdered his daughter and said it was "diabolical" those responsible for the Lockerbie bombing have yet to be brought to justice.

He said: "It's not that we seek vengeance. It's that we seek the truth and justice and believe that we have been thwarted in that, deliberately."

He added: "I think there is a good chance the verdict against Megrahi will be overturned in my lifetime."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "East Renfrewshire Council, as the supervising local authority, is responsible for monitoring al-Megrahi's adherence to the conditions of his release licence, the terms of which are available on the Scottish Government's website.

"The council has been able to maintain contact with al-Megrahi since his return to Libya, including during the recent conflict, and he continues to abide by the terms of his release licence."