Doctor defends role in release of Lockerbie bomber

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A doctor involved in talks a year ago about the health of the Lockerbie bomber before his release insisted Thursday that advice given to officials was a "fair reflection" of his condition at the time.

Dr Grahame Howard was one of four experts involved in the run-up to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish jail a year ago Friday on compassionate grounds due to his terminal prostate cancer.

Megrahi, the only man convicted of killing 270 people by blowing up a passenger jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, is still alive in his homeland of Libya despite a three-month prognosis when he was freed.

Howard stressed that the final assessment of Megrahi's prognosis was made by the Scottish Prison Service's director of health and care, Andrew Fraser.

The decision to free Megrahi was taken by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

"As an external adviser, I was involved in discussions leading up to the point where Mr Megrahi was considered for release on medical grounds," Howard said in a statement.

"The background medical portion of that application is a fair reflection of the specialist advice available at the time.

"The final assessment of prognosis was made by Dr Andrew Fraser taking into account the deterioration in his clinical condition."

Scotland's decision to release Megrahi continues to cause controversy, particularly in the United States where many of the people killed in the bombing came from.

The Senate's Foreign Relations Committee is set to hold a hearing on the affair in the coming weeks although several potential witnesses from Britain have declined to appear.

A poll released Thursday suggested 72 percent of Scots believe Scotland's devolved government was right not to send anyone to the hearing.

The YouGov poll was commissioned and released by the ruling Scottish National Party and questioned 1,212 people on August 17-18.

The information released did not give a figure for the proportion of Scots who still support the decision to release Megrahi.

© 2010 AFP

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