Megrahi 'lost' in Libya chaos

2011-08-26 09:04

London - Scottish officials are trying to get in touch with Libyan rebel leaders as part of efforts to resume contact with the Lockerbie bomber lost in the "dust of battle", Scotland's justice secretary said on Thursday.

Former Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, was released from a Scottish jail two years ago on compassionate grounds and flown back to Libya after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and given three months to live.

He was required to submit regular medical reports and check in through telephone calls to East Renfrewshire Council from his home in Libya as part of the licence terms of his release.

The council is trying to make direct contact with Megrahi, while the Scottish government is trying to get in touch with the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) so Megrahi will be able to abide by his conditions, it said.

"We're entering into communications. These matters are difficult, but we're seeking to make sure that we lock on to the authorities," Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told reporters in Edinburgh.

"But at the present moment there is some doubt as to just which parts of Tripoli are controlled by whom. So, we seek to enter into discussions with the appropriate authorities.

"East Renfrewshire council officials are trying to contact Megrahi, but Tripoli and Libya is a war zone and until the dust of battle settles I think we have to allow them to continue to make the efforts that they're doing."

Embarrassment to UK government

Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of playing a "significant part in planning and perpetrating" the bombing of the airliner over the Scottish border town of Lockerbie. The attack killed 270 people, including 189 American citizens. In a special court which sat in the Netherlands, Scottish judges sentenced Megrahi to life in prison with a minimum jail term of 27 years.

His release angered the United States, and his return to a hero's welcome in Libya was an embarrassment to the British government. Megrahi's survival has raised questions about the medical advice that led to his being freed, and for US politicians and victims' relatives to call for his extradition to the United States.

He was last in touch with the council on August 8, and the council has been trying to renew contact since Monday, without success.

On Wednesday, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said he would like to see Megrahi put back in jail after the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Prime Minister David Cameron, who took office in May 2010, has called the release a mistake.

However, Scotland has responsibility for its own legal system following devolution in 1999.

"Mr Megrahi is a Scottish prisoner. He's been released on licence in terms of the law that applies in Scotland," MacAskill added.

"There are obligations that go with him being a Scottish prisoner released on licence. But whilst we're in a war zone, which is accepted by everybody, I think we need to wait and see what happens there."

Read more on:    abdel basset al-megrahi  |  david cameron  |  muammar gaddafi  |  nick clegg  |  scotland  |  libya  |  libya protests  |  north africa  |  uprisings  |  lockerbie bombing
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