The man convicted of the “Lockerbie bombing” that killed 270 people aboard Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988 is near death, reports say, two years after he was controversially released from a Scottish prison on “humanitarian grounds.”
Although many have called for the terrorist to be put back in prison, others claim that he was innocent all along. Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted of the terrorist attack on January 31, 2001, but was released in 2009 because of his frail health condition and sent back home to Libya.
At the time of his release, which was part of a prisoner transfer agreement Britain had with Libya that says prisoners could serve out sentences in their home countries, a separate deal for BP to drill off the coast of Libya was made, prompting many to believe there was a tit-for-tat agreement, according to U.K.’s Sunday Times.
Both countries and BP denied the prisoner release had anything to do with the oil deal.
People who maintain Megrahi is innocent say the conviction was politically motivated, such as British politician Tom Dalyell, who wrote in a 2008 Sunday Times editorialthat Megrahi was made, “a scapegoat in 1990-91 by an American government that had decided to go to war with Iraq and did not want complications with Syria and Iran, which had harbored the real perpetrators of the terrible deed.”
Despite the accusations and controversy, Scottish officials have said the government sticks by its decision to release Megrahi, and have rejected calls, including from British Prime Minister David Cameron, demanding that Megrahi be called back to prison.
"The Scottish government has no intention, never has had any intention, to ask for the extradition of Mr al-Megrahi because he has conformed to his license conditions," First Minister Alex Salmond of Scotland told BBC television.
The “license conditions” Salmond referred to was that Megrahi’s doctors provide regular medical updates to Scottish authorities regarding his condition while remaining in Libya, Reuters reported.
The Scottish government, which operates under a different system from England, has said it will not seek extradition.
"The opinion of many, many people is that it might be time as far as Mr Megrahi is concerned to draw a line under that part of the Lockerbie issue and perhaps allow this man now to die in peace," Salmond said.
"He is between life and death, so what difference would prison make?" said Megrahi’s brother, Abdel-Nasser al-Megrahi, standing outside the family's home in an upscale Tripoli neighborhood, according to Forbes.com.
That sentiment is also shared by at least one parent of the bombing’s victims, who believes Megrahi is innocent.
"I feel in view of all he's been through that he should have been accorded a peaceful end in Tripoli with his family," said Jim Swire, a Briton, whose daughter Flora was killed in the bombing.
"The idea of extraditing him is a monstrous one,” he added.
The U.S. State Department has asked Libya’s Transitional National Council to review how the case was handled, The Associated Press reported today. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the TNC had agreed to look into it once it establishes a fully functioning government.
Out of 270 deaths from the 1988 attack, one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in history, 178 were Americans, including many college students returning home for Christmas.