Lockerbie bomber expresses 'sympathy' for relatives

The Lockerbie bomber today said he had "sympathy" for the families of those who died in the atrocity.

A statement was issued on behalf of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi after he left prison in the UK on a chartered jet to Libya.

It said: "I am obviously very relieved to be leaving my prison cell at last and returning to Libya, my homeland.

"Many people, including the relatives of those who died in, and over, Lockerbie, are, I know, upset that my appeal has come to an end; that nothing more can be done about the circumstances surrounding the Lockerbie bombing.

"I share their frustration. I had most to gain and nothing to lose about the whole truth coming out - until my diagnosis of cancer.

"To those victims' relatives who can bear to hear me say this: they continue to have my sincere sympathy for the unimaginable loss that they have suffered.

"To those who bear me ill will, I do not return that to you."

Megrahi had served almost eight years of a 27-year sentence for the bombing.

His statement continued: "I cannot find words in my language or yours that give proper expression to the desolation I have felt.

"This horrible ordeal is not ended by my return to Libya.

"It may never end for me until I die. Perhaps the only liberation for me will be death.

"And I say in the clearest possible terms, which I hope every person in every land will hear: all of this I have had to endure for something that I did not do.

"The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction. I have been faced with an appalling choice: to risk dying in prison in the hope that my name is cleared posthumously or to return home still carrying the weight of the guilty verdict, which will never now be lifted.

"The choice which I made is a matter of sorrow, disappointment and anger, which I fear I will never overcome. I say goodbye to Scotland and shall not return. My time here has been very unhappy and I do not leave a piece of myself.

"But to the country's people I offer my gratitude and best wishes."

Megrahi also criticised the court proceedings against him and described the guilty verdict as "nothing short of a disgrace".

The statement went on: "To be incarcerated in a far off land, completely alien to my way of life and culture has been not only been a shock but also a most profound dislocation for me personally and for my whole family.

"I have had many burdens to overcome during my incarceration. I had to sit through a trial which I had been persuaded to attend on the basis that it would have been scrupulously fair.

"In my second, most recent, appeal I disputed such a description.

"I had to endure a verdict being issued at the conclusion of that trial which is now characterised by my lawyers, and the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission, as unreasonable.

"To me, and to other right thinking people back at home in Libya, and in the international community, it is nothing short of a disgrace."

He thanked prison staff for their "kindness" and expressed gratitude for the medical care he received.

The statement continued: "I bear no ill will to the people of Scotland; indeed, it is one of my regrets that I have been unable to experience any meaningful aspect of Scottish life, or to see your country.

"To the staff in HM Prison Greenock, and before that at HM Prison Barlinnie, I wish to express thanks for the kindness that they were able to show me.

"For those who assisted in my medical and nursing care; who tried to make my time here as comfortable as possible, I am of course grateful."