Lockerbie bomber expected to be released from prison

Author: Press Association

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was reported to be announcing his
release on compassionate grounds in a press conference at 1pm.

Megrahi could be on his way home within hours to spend his dying days with his
family. It is understood he will be flown out of Glasgow Airport this
afternoon if the reports of his release are confirmed.

The BBC reported that the plane which will take Megrahi back to Libya has left
Tripoli.

The decision to free the convicted bomber is likely to cause outrage in the
United States, where secretary of state Hillary Clinton said she hoped he
would stay behind bars.

Mr MacAskill will make the announcement at the Scottish Government’s
ministerial headquarters in Edinburgh.

He has been considering two applications – one for Megrahi to be moved from
Greenock prison to Libya under a prisoner transfer agreement, and a separate
application for him to be released early on compassionate grounds.

The latter course would see him return home a free man.

The Scottish Government refused to confirm reports on Sky News that Megrahi
would be released, insisting it was “complete speculation”.

In the build-up to his decision, Mr MacAskill came under intense US pressure
to keep Megrahi behind bars.

Yesterday a cancer specialist called for an “urgent” decision on the future of
the man convicted of killing 270 people when a Pan Am plane was brought down
over Lockerbie.

Professor Karol Sikora, who visited Megrahi in prison, said the Libyan had an
“aggressive” form of prostate cancer which was no longer responding to
treatment.

“We believe he has only a very short period of time to live,” said Prof
Sikora, who assessed Megrahi last month.

But Mrs Clinton said it was “absolutely wrong” to release Megrahi, and
American relatives have been fiercely critical of the reported plans.

Ms Clinton said yesterday: “We are still encouraging the Scottish authorities
not to do so and we hope that they will not.”

Megrahi successfully dropped his appeal against conviction on Tuesday.

The Times reported that Megrahi would be flown back to Libya on Colonel
Muammar Gaddafi’s private jet if he was released following Mr MacAskill’s
announcement.

The newspaper said a “luxury aircraft” was scheduled to collect the bomber
from Glasgow airport yesterday, but the flight was cancelled during
protracted negotiations over Megrahi’s fate.

Tripoli-based Afriqiyah Airways, which runs Colonel Gaddafi’s personal Airbus
A340, contacted Glasgow airport yesterday to report that it would be
collecting “a special passenger”, the newspaper claimed.

Megrahi’s wife Aisha told The Times her husband still “didn’t know” when he
would be freed from Glasgow’s Greenock prison, but was “very happy” at the
prospect of returning to his homeland.

It was also reported that the convicted bomber had called his mother in Libya
and told her he hoped to be with her by Ramadan,

Hajja Fatma, 95, told the Tripoli Post in Libya: “I do not close the house’s
door at all. I am expecting him to enter at any moment.

“Eleven years I did not spend the holy month of Ramadan with him, I am waiting
for that day when he comes back.”

She maintained that her son was innocent of killing 270 people in the
Lockerbie bomb, saying “he would not slaughter a chicken”.

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