Megrahi move renews Lockerbie inquiry calls

Author: By Jerome Taylor

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is currently serving a life sentence for the murder
of 270 people who died in December 1988 when Pan Am flight 103 exploded over
skies of Lockerbie. But the 57-year-old may be allowed to return to Libya
because he is suffering from terminal prostate cancer and only has months to
live.

He has always protested his innocence and is midway through an ongoing appeal
against his 2001 conviction by a special court in the Netherlands after the
Libyans handed him over as part of a wider deal that saw sanctions against
the North African state lifted.

A number of British relatives of those who died in the attack have expressed
concerns over his conviction and now fear that the appeal, which they hoped
would shed new light on who was behind the bombing, could be shelved if
Megrahi is returned to Tripoli.

Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the attack but believes Megrahi
is innocent, warned the Government that he would be willing to go to court
to push for a public inquiry once the fate of Megrahi’s appeal was known.

“Whether the completion of Megrahi’s appeal takes place or not, we will
continue to call for a full public inquiry into what happened and that call
will become even more vigorous and legally proactive if Megrahi is
released,” he said.

According to the BBC, Scotland’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill has now
asked the Libyan government to prepare for Megrahi’s imminent release on
compassionate grounds, although yesterday Mr MacAskill played down the idea
that the Libyan’s release could be as early as next week.

Dr Swire’s call for a public inquiry was echoed by Pamela Dix, whose brother
Peter was killed. Her campaign group UK Families Flight 103 has long
maintained that the full and true facts of the bombing have been
satisfactorily explained.

“I know there are differences of opinion amongst relatives but what everyone
shares is a clear expectation that we are all entitled to know the full
truth of what happened and see that justice should be done,” she said. “The
only way that can be done, beyond Megrahi’s appeal, is a full inquiry.”

But Mrs Dix also called on Megrahi, a former head of security at Libyan Arab
Airlines, to break his silence over the bombing which he was found guilty
of.

“There has been a lot of talk about releasing him on compassionate grounds but
I would argue Megrahi himself needs to show compassion towards the relatives
of those who died by telling us exactly what his role really was,” she said.
“Whether he is guilty or innocent he should show compassion by breaking his
silence.”

The scepticism towards Megrahi’s conviction which many British relatives have
shown in recent years contrasts sharply, however, with those on the other
side of the Atlantic.

Susan Cohen, whose only child Theodora was one of 35 American students from
Syracuse University who were on the flight, said releasing Megrahi was
simply a “vile” way to appease Libyan leader Colonel Qaddafi.

“It just shows that the power of oil money counts for more than justice,” she
said. “There have been so many attempts to let him off. It has to do with
money and power and giving Qaddafi what he wants. My feelings, as a victim,
apparently count for nothing.”

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