Lockerbie families in race to reveal truth behind Flight 103

Relatives of passengers killed on Pan Am jet fear public inquiry will be shelved as soon as bomber is set free
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The Independent Online

Relatives of those who died in the Lockerbie bombing again called for a full public inquiry into Britain's worst terrorist attack yesterday after it emerged that the man convicted of the bombing could be freed from prison on compassionate grounds by next week.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of 270 people who died in December 1988 when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over skies of Lockerbie. But the 57-year-old may be allowed to return to Libya because he is suffering from terminal prostate cancer and only has months to live.

He has always protested his innocence and is midway through an ongoing appeal against his 2001 conviction at a special court in the Netherlands after the Libyan government handed him over as part of a wider deal that saw sanctions against the North African state lifted.

A number of British relatives of those who died in the attack have expressed concerns over his conviction and now fear that the appeal, which they hoped would shed new light on who was behind the bombing, could be shelved if al-Megrahi is returned to Tripoli.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the attack but believes al-Megrahi is innocent, warned the Government ysterday that he would be willing to go to court to push for a public inquiry once the fate of al-Megrahi's appeal was known.

"Whether the completion of al-Megrahi's appeal takes place or not, we will continue to call for a full public inquiry into what happened and that call will become even more vigorous and legally proactive if [he] is released," he said.

According to the BBC, Scotland's Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has now asked the Libyan government to prepare for al-Megrahi's imminent release on compassionate grounds, although yesterday Mr MacAskill played down the idea that the Libyan could be out as early as next week.

Dr Swire's call for a public inquiry was echoed by Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was also killed on Flight 103. Her campaign group UK Families Flight 103 has long maintained that the full and true facts of the bombing have not been satisfactorily explained.

"I know there are differences of opinion amongst relatives but what everyone shares is a clear expectation that we are all entitled to know the full truth of what happened and see that justice should be done," she said. "The only way that can be done, beyond al-Megrahi's appeal, is a full inquiry."

But Mrs Dix also called on al-Megrahi, a former head of security at Libyan Arab Airlines, to break his silence over the bombing.

"There has been a lot of talk about releasing him on compassionate grounds but I would argue al-Megrahi himself needs to show compassion towards the relatives of those who died by telling us exactly what his role really was," she said.

The scepticism surrounding al-Megrahi's conviction shown by many British relatives in recent years contrasts sharply with feelings across the Atlantic. Susan Cohen, whose only child Theodora was one of 35 American students from Syracuse University who were on the flight, said releasing al-Megrahi was simply a "vile" way of appeasing Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi.

"It just shows that the power of oil money counts for more than justice," she said. "There have been so many attempts to let him off. It has to do with money and power and giving Gaddafi what he wants. My feelings, as a victim, apparently count for nothing."