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 "Lockerbie bomber" has advanced cancer

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PostSubject: "Lockerbie bomber" has advanced cancer   Tue Oct 21, 2008 12:35 pm

The Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is battling "advanced stage" cancer, his lawyer said today.

Al Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer after hospital tests last month and the disease has spread to other parts of his body, solicitor Tony Kelly said.

The former Libyan intelligence agent, 56, is serving a life sentence with a minimum term of 27 years for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which led to the deaths of 270 people.

He was taken from his prison cell in HMP Greenock under tight security to undergo hospital tests at Inverclyde Royal Hospital in Greenock last month.

It is understood he underwent a scan during an outpatient appointment before being returned to jail.

He arrived at the hospital in a convoy of six police motorcyclists and two police cars and spent about two hours there.

Al Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001.

He lost an appeal in 2002, but was given a fresh chance to clear his name in June last year when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred his case back to appeal judges for a second time.

Mr Kelly said that at this stage it would be "unwise" to attempt to predict his client's life expectancy.

But he said the appeal process would go on.

He said: "Following hospital tests, Mr Al Megrahi was last month diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"Unfortunately the disease has spread to other parts of his body and is therefore at an advanced stage.

"Mr Al Megrahi asks that the privacy of his family is respected at this difficult time.

"He wishes me to make clear that the fight to overturn his wrongful conviction for the Lockerbie bombing will go on.

"We on his legal team are continuing to prepare his appeal, which we hope will take place some time next year."

The Libyan won a legal victory last week in the latest stage of his bid to have his conviction overturned.

Following hospital tests, Mr Al Megrahi was last month diagnosed with prostate cancer. Unfortunately the disease has spread to other parts of his body and is therefore at an advanced stage
Tony Kelly


Judges ruled that his appeal could have a wide-ranging focus, looking beyond the issues raised by the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) when it suggested he might have suffered a miscarriage of justice.

The Pan Am 103 flight atrocity killed all 259 men, women and children on board as well as 11 residents of Lockerbie, who died when aircraft wreckage rained down, causing a huge fireball which devastated parts of the town.

Some bodies were never found.

An international manhunt involving Scottish police and CIA investigators led to Al Megrahi and co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, 46. They denied planting the bomb.

At first Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi refused to hand them over for trial but eventually a diplomatic deal led to the trial being held in Holland, neutral territory, under Scottish law.

After being found guilty Al Megrahi was transferred to Barlinnie in Glasgow before being moved to Greenock prison in February 2005.

Fhimah was acquitted and returned to Libya.

In July 2003 Al Megrahi was taken from his cell at Glasgow's Barlinnie prison to the city's Royal Infirmary after complaining of stomach pains.

He returned to the jail the same day after undergoing tests for a suspected stomach ulcer.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the outrage, called for Al Megrahi's appeal to be speeded up.

He said: "I feel that it is a very serious threat to his life and it would be a tragedy if he is to spend the rest of his life in a Scottish prison, particularly if he is not guilty of the crime of which he was found guilty.

"I'm not satisfied that the verdict against him is correct.

"It sounds to me like an unfolding human tragedy."

Dr Swire, who is also spokesman for the UK Families Flight 103 group, added: "If his prognosis is bad then I hope that the Scottish authorities would look for a way of speeding up the next appeal without compromising the fairness of it.

"It would be an act of great humanity to do that."

He said he would hope Al Megrahi can be reunited with his family, either by moving them back to the UK, or allowing him some kind of parole to be repatriated.

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who is convinced of Megrahi's innocence, said he was "very upset" at the news.

"My view is there is a moral obligation to speed up the (appeal) process", said Mr Dalyell, 76.

He went on: "The last time I saw him in Greenock prison, he said 'Of course I want to go back to Tripoli, I have a wife and five children.

"But I want to go back as an innocent man."

Mr Dalyell said the court ruling earlier this month on the scope of Megrahi's appeal was "a huge slap in the face" for Scotland's prosecution service, the Crown Office.

"Throughout, the behaviour of the Crown Office has brought shame on the Scottish legal system," he said.

"They have done everything to delay matters, even to the extent of suppressing information which certainly should have been made available to the defence."

The former Labour MP said he was "absolutely convinced" of Megrahi's innocence.

"What he was, was a sanctions-buster for Libyan Arab Airlines and the Libyan oil industry", said Mr Dalyell, who was involved in negotiations which made possible the original trial of Megrahi and another Libyan national at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands.

"That's why he travelled around so much.

"This was a concoction to blame the Libyans at a time when the US did not want to involve Iran and Syria, because they wanted to attack Iraq."
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