Sunday, May 20, 2012

Lockerbie Bomber Dies

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi dies

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The BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports on the life of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
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Lockerbie Bombing

Megrahi obituary
Bomber to the end Watch
Lockerbie relative: 'Sad day' Watch
Timeline of release
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing above Scotland which killed 270 people, has died at his home in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

Megrahi, 60, was convicted by a special court in the Netherlands in 2001.

He was released from prison in Scotland in 2009 on compassionate grounds. He was suffering from cancer and was said to have only months to live.

When he arrived back in Tripoli, he received a hero's welcome.

His release sparked the fury of many of the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie disaster. The US - whose citizens accounted for 189 of the dead - also criticised the move.

But others believed he was not guilty of the bombing.

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At the scene

Rana Jawad
BBC News, Tripoli
There are just over a dozen cars lining up the street outside Megrahi's house, on the outskirts of central Tripoli.

Chairs are being put up - presumably for guests who will be paying their condolences, although it is still very quiet here.

I spoke earlier today to Megrahi's brother, who said he wished his brother had lived to see the day when his innocence was proven.

Megrahi - and his family - had long maintained that he was not responsible for the Lockerbie bombing.

During Col Gaddafi's rule, many Libyans maintained that Megrahi was innocent whatever the court decided.

I have spoken to a number of Libyans since Col Gaddafi was ousted last year who believe that Megrahi was guilty.

But you still find that many Libyans say that Megrahi did not directly participate in the bombing, that he was used as a scapegoat by the former regime.

So there are mixed views in Libya on this matter.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died at Lockerbie, called Megrahi's death a "very sad event".

"Right up to the end he was determined, for his family's sake... [that] the verdict against him should be overturned," said Dr Swire, who is a member of the Justice for Megrahi group.

"And also he wanted that for the sake of those relatives who had come to the conclusion after studying the evidence that he wasn't guilty, and I think that's going to happen."

Died at home

His brother Abdulhakim said on Sunday that Megrahi's health had deteriorated quickly and he died at home in Tripoli.

He told the AFP news agency that Megrahi died at 13:00 local time (11:00 GMT).

The BBC's Rana Jawad, who is outside Megrahi's home in Tripoli, says family members are making preparations to receive guests paying their condolences.

Megrahi's sister told the Libyan Wal news agency that his funeral would take place at Tripoli's main cemetery on Monday, following early afternoon prayers.

Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, always denied any responsibility for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988.

It remains the deadliest terrorist incident ever to have taken place on British soil.

All 259 people aboard the plane, which was travelling from London to New York, were killed, along with 11 others on the ground.

Megrahi, who had cancer, died at his home in Tripoli, his brother said
Investigators tracing the origins of scraps of clothes wrapped around the bomb followed a trail to a shop in Malta which led them, eventually, to Megrahi.

He and another Libyan, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, were indicted by the Scottish and US courts in November 1991.

But Libya refused to extradite them. In 1999, after protracted negotiations, Libya handed the two men over for trial, under Scottish law but on neutral ground, the former US airbase at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

Their trial began in May 2000. Fhimah was acquitted of all charges, but Megrahi was found guilty and sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in prison.

He served the first part of his sentence at the maximum-security prison at Barlinnie, in Glasgow, but was transferred in 2005 to Greenock prison.

He lost his first appeal against conviction in 2002 but in 2007, his case was referred back to senior Scottish judges. He dropped that second case two days before he was released.

No extradition
Last August, after the fall of Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi, Megrahi was reported to be "in and out of a coma" at his home in Tripoli.

There have been calls for him to be returned to jail in the UK or tried in the US.

But shortly after they toppled Colonel Gaddafi, Libyan rebel leaders said they would not extradite Megrahi or any other Libyan.

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Megrahi: Key dates

November 1991: Indicted for Lockerbie bombing
2001-02: Tried and convicted at special court in the Netherlands August 2009: Released on compassionate grounds and returns to Tripoli July 2011: Last known public appearance at pro-Gaddafi rally 20 May 2012: Dies at home in Tripoli Timeline: Megrahi since release
Our correspondent says that since the fall of Gaddafi, more Libyans are expressing the view that whatever happened at Lockerbie was bigger than just Megrahi, and he may have been used as a scapegoat by the regime.

Last September, it emerged that former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair had raised Megrahi's case in talks with Gaddafi in 2008 and 2009 in Libya, shortly before Megrahi was freed.

At the time, Libya was threatening to sever commercial links with Britain if Megrahi was not released.

But Mr Blair's spokesman told Col Gaddafi it was a case for the Scottish authorities and no business deals were discussed.

In his last interview, filmed in December 2011, Megrahi said: "I am an innocent man. I am about to die and I ask now to be left in peace with my family."

He had previously claimed he would release new information about the atrocity but little new has emerged.

Megrahi had rarely been seen since his return to Tripoli, but he was spotted on Libyan television at what appeared to be a pro-government rally in July 2011.

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