August 26, 2011 / 5:23 PM / 6 years ago

FACTBOX-Lockerbie bomber Megrahi

Aug 26 - Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, jailed for the attack on PanAm flight 103 and released two years ago on ill health grounds, should never have been let go, residents of the Scottish town said, but they were split on whether he should return to jail.

Here are some key facts about Megrahi:


* Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for his part in blowing up New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Judges ruled in 2003 that he must serve a minimum of 27 years before he could apply for parole.

* Megrahi denied any role in the bombing, saying he was an airline executive, not a Libyan intelligence agent as charged.

* He was held in a prison in the town of Greenock in western Scotland as he was tried and convicted under Scottish law, although the trial was held in the Netherlands.

* In November 2008, Megrahi’s lawyers asked a court to free him on bail, saying he was suffering from advanced prostate cancer.

* Libya lobbied for Megrahi’s release in 2009, saying in May it had applied to the Scottish government for him to be sent home as part of a prisoner transfer agreement. In July, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi asked then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for help with the case.

* Scottish authorities rejected Libya’s request that Megrahi be sent back under that agreement, instead releasing him and sending him home on compassionate grounds.

* Megrahi was freed on Aug. 20, 2009 and arrived home to a hero’s welcome. The next day, Britain condemned the celebrations in Tripoli. The release also provoked an outcry in the United States since most of the 270 people killed in the bombing were American.

* Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond has said there was no conspiracy in the decision to release Megrahi. He was alluding to U.S. questions over oil company BP Plc’s influence on the process. Salmond denied the firm played a role in the process.

* BP had confirmed it lobbied the British government in late 2007 for a prisoner transfer agreement between Britain and Libya, further angering U.S. senators, but it stressed that it never lobbied specifically for Megrahi’s release.

* In Dec. 2010 Britain’s Guardian newspaper said Gaddafi had threatened to cut trade with Britain and warned of “enormous repercussions” if the Lockerbie bomber died in jail, citing U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks.


* Megrahi, born in April 1952, is married with five children. His wife and children were able to visit him in prison in Scotland. He speaks Arabic and English, which he learned as a student in the United States.

* Scottish government sources said Megrahi had abided by the licence terms of his release -- submitting regular medical reports and reporting in through telephone conference calls.

* Megrahi appeared in July 2011 at a rally in support of Gaddafi, sitting in a wheelchair at a tribal meeting in Tripoli. However Scottish officials said on Aug. 25 they were trying to get in touch with rebel leaders as part of efforts to resume contact with the bomber lost in the “dust of battle”. (Reporting by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit)

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