'Let Megrahi die in peace' says Lockerbie victim's father
Monday 29 August 2011
The father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing today called for the man convicted of the atrocity to be left in peace to die.
Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora, 23, said that he would treat Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi himself, if he could, to allow him a dignified death.
The retired GP was among a number of victims' families to speak out following confirmation from the Scottish Government that contact had been made with Megrahi's family during the weekend. Officials in Scotland had been attempting to track him down but had not managed to make contact since the fighting reached Tripoli.
Today American news channel CNN aired images of the convicted bomber, apparently comatose and near death, in his villa in the Libyan capital.
Meanwhile, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said his government has no intention of seeking Megrahi's return to Scotland.
Speaking about the CNN footage, Dr Swire, who has always maintained Megrahi's innocence, said: "It is obvious he is sufficiently ill and in need of pain relief and medical care. His medical treatment has been withdrawn due to the circumstances in Tripoli, and his family are saying his drugs have been stolen.
"I feel in view of all he's been through that he should have been accorded a peaceful end in Tripoli with his family. The idea of extraditing him is a monstrous one.
"I would be happy to go and try to look after him if that could be arranged, but I don't know how that could be. He will need pain relief and medication to allow him a dignified end.
"This is a man who withdrew his appeal so that he could be allowed to die close to his family and he deserves to be left in peace for his last days."
Megrahi was convicted and imprisoned in Scotland for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people.
He was granted compassionate release in 2009 on the basis that he was expected to die from prostate cancer within months. But he survived and was residing in Tripoli when Muammar Gaddafi's regime fell.
There have been calls for Megrahi to be brought back to jail in the UK in the wake of the collapse of Gaddafi's regime.
The Scottish Government and East Renfrewshire Council, which Megrahi must regularly contact under his conditions of release, said any change in his circumstances would be a matter for discussion with the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC).
Dr Swire dismissed the idea of extradition, saying: "Mr al-Megrahi has never wavered in his claim he was innocent and the evidence led against him was so polluted by political influence that it should never have led to his conviction.
"It's a great shame the overturning of the verdict will not happen while he is still alive to see it."
The families of other victims said they feared their chances of discovering the truth behind the bombing would die with Megrahi.
Pam Dix, whose lost her brother Peter, 35, said: "The sad things is that with the death of this man will go our chance of knowing for sure whether he was involved or not.
"It's a very difficult set of circumstances. He maintains he wasn't involved. He remains the only man convicted, but we have never really heard his case for being innocent. We may never properly know now."
Ms Dix, from Surrey, continued: "I was hopeful more evidence would emerge as a result of the change of regime but it's difficult to trust what people are saying.
"If there is evidence - paperwork, a trail, that would be fantastic. It might be that the change of regime might help to bring that about, of course the situation is very chaotic there at the moment."
Martin Cadman, whose son Bill, 32, died in the Lockerbie bombing, said British relatives still had questions as to the circumstances surrounding the attack.
Speaking from his home in Norfolk, Mr Cadman said he believed the Americans knew more than had already emerged.
He said: "Megrahi was not the only person, if he was any person, in this thing. At some time we've got to have the truth about it and the Americans have got to come clean about it."
Mr Cadman said he did not believe "any evidence" had been shown that Megrahi was involved in the bombing, adding: "I do hope that somehow this event now, Megrahi on the point of death, is going to make someone own up."
But while the families of some victims continued to question Megrahi's guilt, others hit out at reports he would not be extradited following the collapse of the Gaddafi regime.
Foreign Secretary William Hague said yesterday that NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil had pledged to "co-operate fully".
But last night new justice minister Mohammed al-Alagi became the most senior figure so far to rule out handing individuals over.
"We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West," he told reporters in Tripoli. "Al-Megrahi has already been judged once and he will not be judged again ...
"We do not hand over Libyan citizens. (Muammar) Gaddafi does."
Speaking to CNN from his home in New Jersey, John Flynn, whose son died in the Lockerbie bombing, said he was "unbelievably disappointed" at the news.
"If the man's dying and so on and so forth I've got to have some sympathy for that," he said.
"He was ordered to do that, he was told to do that. He was just a person who followed orders from Mr Gaddafi and that's what he did.
"I would like to see him back in prison with Gaddafi but if he dies in Libya I'm not having a heart attack about that."
Meanwhile, Scotland Yard has also identified former Libyan diplomat Abdulmagid Salah Ameri as the prime suspect in the 1984 shooting of WPC Yvonne Fletcher in London.
No-one has ever been prosecuted over the murder of WPC Fletcher, who was shot while policing a protest outside the Libyan embassy.
But it has emerged that an eyewitness saw Ameri, a junior diplomat at the time, firing a gun from inside the building.
Libya does have an extradition agreement with the UK. However, it covers only foreign suspects, rather than Libyan nationals.
Meanwhile, the rebels have dismissed an apparent offer from Gaddafi of talks on a transfer of power.
The NTC's forces are gathering near the fugitive ex-dictator's home town of Sirte. Negotiations are taking place with tribal elders in a bid to secure the town peacefully.
There is growing evidence of brutal crimes during the final days of the Gaddafi regime, with more than 50 charred bodies found in a burnt-out warehouse in Tripoli.
Residents said they were civilians who had been executed last week by members of a brigade commanded by the ex-dictator's son Khamis.
However, fears have been easing slightly over the humanitarian situation in the capital after desperately needed fuel and water supplies began to arrive.
The newly installed authorities are distributing 30,000 tonnes of petrol and a ship carrying fresh water and diesel is due to dock in the next couple of days.
Mr Salmond said that despite press reports to the contrary, Megrahi had not broken any of the conditions of his release on licence.
Speaking to Sky News he said: "The only people with any authority in this matter are the Scottish government who have jurisdiction on the matter - he is a Scottish prisoner under licence - and the new Libyan Transitional Council, who are the new duly constituted legal authority in Libya.
"We have never had and do not have any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr Megrahi. It's quite clear from the Libyan Transitional Council that following their own laws they had never any intention of agreeing to such extradition, and therefore the views of American senators, American lawyers, of the UK Foreign Secretary, or of the Deputy Prime Minister, have no bearing on this issue because they do not have any locus whatsoever."
He dismissed the suggestion Megrahi could be questioned further about the bombing, saying; "You've seen the CNN pictures as I have, I think the idea that he would be available for interview in any recognisable form is pretty far-fetched."
And he said that the investigation into the bombing remained open, as it had been for the last 20 years.
He said: "There are matters that still could be progressed on the Lockerbie bombing. The Scottish Crown Office have made it clear that if any other evidence emerges, any other people are available to give evidence, or any other indictments are possible, that they stand ready to follow these leads. This investigation is still open and that any other indictments could still be served if relevant information comes forward."
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who ordered the release of Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, echoed the First Minister's comments, saying: "It has been ill-informed, inappropriate press speculation that has been fuelling suggestions that Mr Megrahi was here, there and everywhere.
"It does seem that CNN, unlike many UK papers, has managed to discover that Mr Megrahi remains a sick man, dying of prostate cancer.
"So I think the Scottish Government has worked with the council charged with the responsibility of monitoring Mr Megrahi on licence, who have done an excellent job, and sadly some press speculation has bordered on the macabre, and failed to provide the truth.
"And we have all probably benefited from the update."
A spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council said: "We won't be discussing the detail of our contact with Mr Megrahi or his family. We can confirm that contact with the family was made over the weekend and we will be using that to continue our monitoring role of Mr Megrahi."
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