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Posted on Sustainabilitank.info on August 30th, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (pj@sustainabilitank.info)

Megrahi lay there, clinging to life. But will he die at home or in jail?

By Kim Sengupta in Tripoli, from Tripoli, The Independent, Tuesday, 30 August 2011.

The medicine needed for his cancer treatment was gone, plundered by looters who ransacked the house. The foreign-trained specialist doctors disappeared when the violence began. Now the desperate family of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi are begging the Scottish authorities to supply the drugs which may alleviate his pain and distress in the final days.
As Libya struggles to recover from its bloody and vengeful civil war, with the discovery of mass graves, places of torture, and claims that 50,000 people are missing, a terrible atrocity from 13 years ago has resurfaced in Tripoli amid diplomatic controversy.
The highly emotive issue is the fate of the man found guilty of blowing up Pan Am flight 103, killing 270 people. US congressmen, some British MPs and bereaved American families want continued retribution. Megrahi, they say, must return to his incarceration and die in jail.
The revolutionaries who have taken over in Tripoli are adamant that will not happen, with the recently appointed Justice Minister declaring: “We do not hand over Libyan citizens to the West, Gaddafi does.” A pointed assertion of sovereignty towards foreign states which had helped him and his colleagues come to power.
British diplomats, who began arriving in Tripoli yesterday to set up an embassy, are due to raise the issue with the new government.
The man at the centre of attention lay in a bed at his home in a suburb of the capital. Megrahi, his face skeletal, could barely move. He was attached to a drip, his face covered by an oxygen mask, drifting in and out of consciousness. His 84-year-old mother, Fatima and his wife, Aysha, were by his side, weeping, holding his hands.
Megrahi was granted compassionate release in 2009 on the basis that he was expected to die from prostate cancer within months. In return he dropped his appeal against conviction based on new evidence which allegedly showed serious flaws in the prosecution case against him. “Why do they want so much to drag him back to suffer in prison? You are looking at a man who is very close to dying,” said his brother, Abdelnasser al-Megrahi. “He cannot eat, he cannot walk. He only sometimes asks for our mother, he is afraid.
“The Scottish Government is in touch with us every month to ask how he is. It is part of the conditions under which he was freed. The last contact was by email yesterday. We told them what had happened and asked they send some medicine, what we had was stolen when people broke into the house.
“All we are asking for is what he was being given when he was in Britain. He got ill when he was in prison, his cancer worsened because of where he was, locked up. So we hope we may get some help. We also hope now that things are settling down a bit we may get the doctors to pay a call. We have had just one visit from a doctor recently, a local man, there was nothing he could do.”
Abdelnasser said his brother was aware of the uprising, the fighting which followed, and that Muammar Gaddafi was no longer in power.
He was confident, however, that the opposition administration, the Transitional National Council (TNC), would protect him from any extradition demands. “What can he [Abdelbaset] say about Gaddafi?” asked Abdelnasser, a former soldier. “He has met Gaddafi once. We are not involved in what is going on. The TNC does not have any problem with my brother. Almost all of them were Gaddafi people in the past, they know my brother’s case and that he is not guilty.”
Eleven members of the Megrahi family stay in a complex of two large houses in a relatively affluent part of Tripoli. The property, insisted Abdelnasser, was not a gift of the regime, but bought from their own savings.
Megrahi’s son Khalid, as well as Abdelnasser, insisted they have had no communications with regime officials in the past few months. They also said there had been no contacts with Lamin Khalifa Fhimah, who had been charged as co-conspirator in the bombing, but cleared. Fhimah, also living in Tripoli, maintained that although he had been a member of the Libyan intelligence service, he was delighted with the revolution. As for Lockerbie: “I do not know whether Gaddafi was responsible or not. He should appear before a court and then we will find out.”
The verdict on Megrahi, delivered by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands, was mired in controversy from the outset with many observers convinced that key parts of the prosecution evidence lacked credibility. Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was among those killed in the bombing, said yesterday: “I feel that in view of all that Megrahi had been through he should be allowed to have a peaceful end in Tripoli with his family. The idea of extraditing him is a monstrous one.”
Yesterday, with discoveries of more bodies in the Libyan capital and fighting continuing around Colonel Gaddafi’s home town, Sirte, the Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, was asked once more, at a press conference, about the possibilities of extraditing Megrahi. He said: “We realise this case is important to some of our Western allies. But the most crucial thing now is to secure our country. The second thing is to stabilise Libya so that it can function. After that we can look at related issues between us and other governments.”
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Britain and US accused of playing politics with Megrahi’s condition.

also August 30, 2011 – By Oliver Wright, The Independent, Whitehall Editor

The British and US governments were last night accused of ignoring the law and engaging in “international politicking” over the Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi.

The Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond turned on the Foreign Secretary William Hague and on US senators who have repeatedly criticised the decision by his Scottish nationalist administration to free Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

He said images from Tripoli showing Megrahi in a coma and close to death underlined why he had been released in the first place and suggested that calls for his return to prison in Scotland had no legal standing.

Privately, government sources admit that they have no interest in pursuing the extradition of Megrahi despite the regime change in Libya. But they are anxious not to be seen as condoning the decision to release him. Macabre as it may be, ministers would like to see Megrahi die quickly and end the two-year controversy over his early release.

In his first public comments on the case since the fall of Tripoli, Mr Salmond welcomed the view of the Libyan transitional council that it would not consider extraditing Megrahi either to the UK or the US. “Perhaps if we all followed due process of law as the Scottish government has done and ceased the international politicking around this, then we could all be in a much better place,” he said.

“The only people with any authority in this matter are the Scottish government who have jurisdiction on the matter – he is a Scottish prisoner under licence – and the new Libyan transitional council, who are the new duly constituted legal authority in Libya.

“We have never had and do not have any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr Megrahi. It’s quite clear from the Libyan transitional council that following their own laws they had never any intention of agreeing to such extradition.”

Mr Salmond dismissed the suggestion that Megrahi could be questioned further about the bombing, saying: “You’ve seen the CNN pictures as I have. I think the idea that he would be available for interview in any recognisable form is pretty far-fetched … Mr Megrahi remains a sick man, dying of prostate cancer.”

Mr Salmond said that the investigation into the bombing remained open as it had been for the past 20 years and could be helped by the regime change in Libya. “There are matters that still could be progressed on the Lockerbie bombing. The Scottish Crown Office have made it clear that if any other evidence emerges, any other people are available to give evidence, or any other indictments are possible, that they stand ready to follow these leads.”

John Bolton, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, persisted with the argument for extraditing Megrahi to the US. “Personally, I think the United States made a mistake in agreeing that he be tried under Scottish law, which doesn’t provide for the death penalty,” Mr Bolton said.

“I don’t much think of what the Scottish government thinks. I think the United States should insist that Megrahi be tried in the United States and face trial here.”

Timeline

December 1988

Pan Am Flight 103 from London to New York explodes over Lockerbie. The 259 people on board the Boeing 747 are killed, as well as 11 on the ground.

November 1991

US and British investigators indict Abdelbaset al-Megrahi and Lamin Khalifa Fhimah on 270 counts of murder, accusing them of being Libyan intelligence agents.

April 1992

The UN Security Council imposes sanctions on weapons sales and air travel after Libya refuses to meet a 15 April deadline.

August 1998

Libya agrees to the two facing trial at a court in the Netherlands.

May 2000

The trial of the two begins, amid a large security operation.

January 2001

Megrahi is found guilty and jailed for a minimum of 20 years. Fhimah is found not guilty.

March 2002

Megrahi loses an appeal, heard by five Scottish judges.

August 2003

The families of the victims agree a compensation package with the Libyan government of £1.7bn.

August 2009

Megrahi is released after doctors say he has cancer and has only three months to live.

August 2011

Megrahi’s brother is reported as saying that Megrahi is in a coma. Scottish government officials say his “condition is consistent with terminal cancer”.

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