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Megrahi funeral attended by Gaddafi old guard


Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, was buried yesterday in a quiet family ceremony, ignored by most Libyans.

The former intelligence officer under Muammar Gaddafi's regime, who maintained he was not responsible for the atrocity which killed 270 people, died of cancer on Sunday. His release from jail on compassionate grounds in 2009 caused controversy in Britain and the US, where most victims of the terror attack on Pan Am flight 103 were from.

Neither his death at 60, nor his funeral, even made the news on the three main television stations in Libya, where people are focused on the upcoming elections after overthrowing Colonel Gaddafi last year. A few Gaddafi-era officials were among about 150 mourners, mostly members of the Megrahi clan, who attended the funeral. Megrahi was seen by many Libyans as an embarrassing reminder of Gaddafi's rule, when the country became a pariah state and suffered years of international sanctions. "Megrahi is a symbol of the old regime and, if Gaddafi were still alive, he would have received a huge and pompous funeral," said Ali al-Ahmed, a taxi driver. "But now those who like him don't want to show they are sympathetic, so they keep silent. The rest of us don't really care much about him."

Megrahi's body, wrapped in a shroud, was removed from a wooden coffin and placed in a deep grave to cries of "Allahu Akbar", or "God is greatest", before mourners walked quietly away. Even for his family, courted by Gaddafi before last year's revolt, and by foreign journalists since, Megrahi's death offers closure from a long-running saga.

"I myself heard Abdelbaset always saying that 'if God gives me life and health I will appeal my case and prove my innocence'," said his cousin, Rashed Megrahi. "We see his death as a mercy. He has rested and so have we."