Convicted Lockerbie bomber dies of cancer years after release


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The Independent Online

The only person ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has died from cancer in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

He had spent the last two years and nine months there after being freed from prison in Scotland. The release, on compassionate grounds after the former intelligence official was diagnosed with terminal illness, was heavily criticised by some Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs then in opposition; the US administration and some, mainly American, members of bereaved families.

Megrahi's brother, Abdulhakim, said he died at home, adding: "He was too sick to utter anything on his deathbed. But just because Abdulbaset is dead doesn't mean the past is now erased. We will always tell the world that my brother was innocent."

Megrahi, 60, was found guilty of the of mass murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing and ordered to serve a sentence of at least 27 years imprisonment. His alleged accomplice Lamin Khalifa Fhimah was acquitted by the court of Scottish judges sitting at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Megrahi had always maintained his innocence and had asked for a posthumous appeal to be launched to clear his name. A number of those who lost members of families in the bombing, but believe the Libyan was made a scapegoat, have said that they will press for a legal review of the original court decision.

David Cameron, however, insisted yesterday any such action was unnecessary. "This has been thoroughly gone through. There was a proper process, a proper court proceeding and all the rest of it," he said. "We have to give people the chance to mourn those that were lost. I'm very clear that the court case was properly done and properly dealt with."

The death led to differing reactions among families who had suffered losses. David Ben-Aryeah, a spokesman for some of the families, said " It is to be deeply regretted. As someone who attended the trial I have never taken the view that Megrahi was guilty. Megrahi is the 271st victim of Lockerbie."

Dr Jim Swire, whose 24-year-old daughter Flora died, said it was "a very sad event". "I met him last time face-to-face in Tripoli in December last year, when he was very sick and in a lot of pain. But he still wanted to talk to me about how information which he and his defence team have accumulated could be passed to me after his death, and I think that's a fairly amazing thing for a man who knows he's dying to do."

Martin Cadman, from Norfolk, who lost his 32-year-old son Bill, said: "The Americans know far more than they have said. They needed someone to blame and the finger fell on Megrahi, but I think he is innocent."

But Susan Cohen, of New Jersey, whose 20-year-old daughter Theodora was one of the victims, declared she was not "interested in theories" over Megrahi's guilt or innocence: "I detest him, he was monstrous, and I hope his death was extremely painful and horrible", she said.