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Lockberbie Bomber Outlives Death Sentence, Thrives in Libya

Doctors predicted that the Lockerbie bomber would die in three months or less. But he's still alive nine months later and going strong in Libya.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 5/23/2010, 10:38 AM / Last Update: 5/23/2010, 10:53 AM

Nearly a year ago, doctors predicted the terrorist responsible for the attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland would die of terminal prostate cancer in three months or less. In response to an appeal for humanitarian compassion, the Scottish government set Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi free on August 20, 2009 to spend the rest of his days with his family in Libya.

But al-Megrahi didn't die. In fact, nine months later, the 58-year-old Lockerbie bomber has now outlived four other convicted murderers released on similar grounds.

All 259 people aboard the flight from London's Heathrow Airport to New York were murdered on December 21, 1988 -- including 16 cabin crew along with 11 others on the ground.

When he was released, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill announced that al-Megrahi would face “a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die.... Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.”

As Al-Megrahi returned to Tripoli to a hero's welcome, British and American citizens watched with disgust, and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded with a sharp statement expressing America's “disappointment” with the decision.

This past Saturday night, Scottish Opposition politicians renewed demands for ministers to release the information that persuaded the government to free the terrorist. Many believed at the time – and continue to believe – that it was the call of the oil rigs, and not that of a higher power, that persuaded Scotland's government to set al-Megrahi free.

“It is now nine months since Britain's worst mass murderer returned to Tripoli to a hero's welcome,” Bill Aitken, justice spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives pointed out. “The public has a right to see that evidence. He is supposed to be getting regular medical checks and monitoring – these must be made public as well.”

Families of the victims also expressed outrage. Frank Duggan, president of the group that represents the U.S. families, Victims of Pan Am 103, told the The Times of London, “It is disgraceful. It was obvious that he was never that sick.”

Duggan contended that the decision to free the Libyan terrorist had more to do with British commerce and the desire for access to Libya's oil and natural gas than it had to do with health issues. “I guess Kenny MacAskill thought the easiest way to avoid information coming out about the oil companies was to release him on compassionate grounds,” he said.