L’AQUILA, Italy, (Reuters) – Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi on Friday asked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for help in the case of the dying former Libyan agent who is appealing against a life sentence for the 1988 Lockerbie aircraft bombing.
The Scottish Appeal Court said this week the case would not be concluded until next year, raising concerns that 57-year-old Abdel Basset al-Megrahi — who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer– will die before the appeal finishes. “Gaddafi raised the issue of Mr Megrahi,” Brown’s spokesman told reporters at the G8 summit in Italy, where the two leaders held bilateral talks, the first time they had met.
“The Libyans reiterated their longstanding position that they would like to see him go back to Libya. The prime minister made clear it was a matter for the Scottish government.”
The Libyan and British governments signed a prisoner transfer agreement this year and Tripoli has sought Megrahi’s return. But Scotland has a separate legal system from the rest of Britain and his fate lies with the Scottish government.
Scotland’s Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill is currently consulting all parties concerned, including the U.S. and Libyan governments and families of the victims of the bombing before deciding whether to accede to Libya’s request.
A total of 270 people were killed when the Pan Am jumbo jet exploded over the southwestern Scottish town of Lockerbie, including 189 Americans and 11 people on the ground.
After a trial in a special Scottish court meeting in The Netherlands in 2001, Megrahi was sentenced to 27 years’ in prison. “There is a very serious danger that my client will die before the case is determined,” Megrahi’s lawyer told the appeal court this week, adding that his health “is deteriorating with a relentless onset of symptoms”. His lawyers have questioned whether the trial court was right to accept evidence relating to his identification, the type of fuse in the bomb and how it was consigned to the Pan Am flight.
In the next hearings, legal sources said the appeal lawyers were expected to introduce fresh evidence and question the competence of his previous lawyers.