7 Nov 2008

Release Lockerbie bomber, lawyer tells court

8:21 am on 7 November 2008

The man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing should be released on health grounds because he has terminal prostate cancer, his lawyer has told a court.

Prosecutors objected to the request due to the "incomprehensible gravity" of the attack, in which 270 people were killed when a bomb on board a transatlantic airliner destroyed it as it flew over the Scottish town.

Libyan Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, 56, is serving life with a minimum term of 27 years in a Scottish prison for blowing up Pan Am flight 103 on the night of 21 December, 1988.

His lawyer announced last month that Al-Megrahi has "advanced" prostate cancer which has spread to other parts of his body.

"The appellant is terminally ill. His suffering will be reduced if he is released from prison conditions," Maggie Scott told the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh.

"He is very ill and does not have long to live so bail is therefore sought on compassionate grounds. There is a compelling case for the release of this man on interim liberation."

But prosecutor Ronnie Clancy said he should not be released due to the seriousness of the offence. "The crime of which the appellant stands convicted is one of incomprehensible gravity," he said.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing and who became a spokesman for the Lockerbie victims' families, last week backed Al-Megrahi's provisional release.

"My personal feelings are that to force him to remain segregated from his family and his five children for the short remaining time that he may have before him would amount to exquisite torture," he told the BBC.

After submissions from prosecutors and defence, the three judges hearing the case in Edinburgh retired to consider their verdict. A date for the ruling was not given.