Lockerbie bomber must stay behind bars: court

November 14th, 2008 - 11:46 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Nov 14 (DPA) A Libyan man convicted of the 1988 bombing of an American airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland in which 270 people died will not be released early from jail on health grounds, appeal judges in Scotland ruled Friday.Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, 56, had applied for the interim release, pending a separate appeal against his conviction, on the grounds that he suffered from advanced prostate cancer.

But the judges at the Appeal Court in Edinburgh ruled that al-Megrahi “may still have years to live” and that the “grave nature of the conviction” did not justify an early release.

The Libyan’s defence team had argued that al-Megrahi should be allowed to be cared for by his family in Scotland.

Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life at a special court at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands in 2001, with the judges stipulating that he must serve at least 27 years.

Al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent, has always denied the charges against him.

He was sentenced for blowing up a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, with 259 passengers and 11 people on the ground killed.

“While the disease from which the appellant suffers is incurable and may cause his death, he is not at present suffering material pain or disability,” said the ruling.

“While recognising that the psychological burden of knowledge of an incurable fatal disease may be easier to bear in a family environment than in custody, the court, having regard to the grave nature of the conviction … is not persuaded that the stage has been reached when early release is appropriate,” it added.

Al-Megrahi, who was not in court for the hearing, said he was “very distressed” that the court had refused him bail and “the chance to spend my remaining time with my family”.

“I wish to reiterate that I had nothing whatsoever to do with the Lockerbie bombing and that the fight for justice will continue, regardless of whether I am alive to witness my name being cleared,” the statement read out by his legal representative, Tony Kelly, said.

Support for al-Megrahi’s appeal bid also came from Jim Swire, a British doctor whose daughter, Flora, died in the atrocity and who led the campaign for justice and financial compensation for the Lockerbie victims.

Swire said al-Megrahi’s continued incarceration was bound to have an adverse effect on the progress of the disease.

“It is tragic that Scottish justice has missed a golden opportunity to display mercy,” said Swire.

The tag “justice delayed is justice denied” could prove to have “a terrible resonance” for al-Megrahi and would affect the future reputation of Scottish justice, he said.

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