Scots stand by Lockerbie bomber release two years on

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The Scottish government insisted Saturday its decision to free the Lockerbie bomber exactly two years ago had been vindicated, saying it stood by his release.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi is the only man convicted over the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people, mostly Americans, when it exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.

Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, was said to be only three months from death when he was freed from a Scottish jail on compassionate grounds on August 20, 2009.

The fact that he has survived so long has provoked indignation in Britain and the United States. Tripoli maintains a news blackout on the state of his health.

A spokesman for Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond defended his release, saying senior figures in the Scottish, British and US administrations all agreed that the decision was taken in good faith.

"Two years of extensive scrutiny, under three jurisdictions, vindicates the position that the Justice Secretary (Kenny MacAskill) released Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone," he said.

"Regardless of people's views, they can have complete confidence that it was taken on the basis of Scots law, and without any consideration of the economic, political and diplomatic factors that the then UK government based its position on.

"Whether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer."

The spokesman said the report by Scottish Prison Service director of health and care, Dr Andrew Fraser, the only publicly available document on Megrahi's health, describes the three-month prognosis as "reasonable".

It also states that no-one "would be willing to say" if Megrahi would live longer.

Megrahi made his first public appearance in nearly two years last month at a meeting in support of Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Television images showed an emaciated Megrahi, sitting in a wheelchair, at a meeting of his tribe in support of the embattled Kadhafi regime.

His previous public appearance was a September 2009 meeting with African lawmakers at a Tripoli hospital.

© 2011 AFP

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