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Libyan Lockerbie Bomber Could be Released from British Prison


The man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, could be released from prison next week on compassionate grounds, according to British television. The reports of a release have prompted mixed reactions from families of the victims.

Former Libyan intelligence agent Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is serving a life sentence in a prison in Scotland. But, news reports in Britain say he could be released as early as next week.

Megrahi is dying of prostate cancer and his condition is reported to have worsened. Reports say his early release could be granted on humanitarian grounds to allow him to spend his remaining days with family back in Libya.

There has been no official confirmation of such a move, but Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill says he is considering the issue.

"I have made no decision," said MacAskill. "Clearly I have been listening to representations from the Americans and from the families [of the victims]. I now have to reflect. I am conscious I have to do so as speedily as possible. Clearly, he is terminally ill and there are other factors. But, I have made no decision yet."

A bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103 brought down the passenger jet in December 1988 over the town of Lockerbie. All 259 people on board were killed along with 11 on the ground. Most of the victims were Americans.

Reports of Megrahi's possible release have prompted mixed reactions from family members of some of the victims.

Speaking on British television, Kathleen Flynn said Megrahi's release would not be right.

"You do not allow someone who has murdered, premeditated murder of 270 innocent people, and let him walk away," she said.

But speaking for some of the British victims' families, Jim Swire, takes a different view. "It is easy for me because I do not believe he's guilty. I think he should never have been found guilty," he said.

Two Libyans were indicted for the attack, but only Megrahi was convicted under Scottish law at a trial in the Netherlands. Many of the families of Britons killed in the bombing have said they do not think the evidence against Megrahi was conclusive.

He began his prison term in 2002. He has maintained his innocence and has twice appealed his sentence.

Four years after his conviction, the Libyan government officially acknowledged responsibility and agreed to pay $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families. That paved the way for the lifting of Western sanctions against Libya and normalization of diplomatic ties.

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