lockerbie, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, lockerbie bomber
Handout/PA Wire
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who
was convicted of the
1988 Lockerbie
bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 2001.

Many Questions Remain Unanswered in Lockerbie Bombing Case

August 15, 2009 07:00 AM
by Liz Colville
The only person so far convicted in the Lockerbie case is dying of prostate cancer and will be released "on compassionate grounds" next week.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi Drops Second Appeal

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, a 57-year-old Libyan native, has decided to drop his second appeal in the murder case for which he is currently serving a life sentence, the Telegraph reports. Megrahi is "expected to be freed next week on compassionate grounds." He made the decision because his illness has taken a "significant turn for the worst," according to his lawyers.

The decision means that Megrahi, who has continued to proclaim his innocence in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing that killed 270 people in 1988, will likely "die a guilty man," the Telegraph adds.

Megrahi is currently serving his prison sentence in a Scotland jail. The BBC reports that the "Scottish Government denied any pressure had been placed on the Libyan to drop his second appeal."

But Christine Grahame, a Scottish National Party MP, speculated to the BBC that Megrahi likely came under pressure to drop his appeal. "There are a number of vested interests who have been deeply opposed to this appeal continuing as they know it would go a considerable way towards exposing the truth behind Lockerbie," Grahame said.

Grahame believes that Megrahi "had nothing to do with the bombing of Pan Am 103," and she has called for "a full public inquiry into the bombing."

The ambiguity that surrounds the more than 20-year-old case is a struggle for some families of the victims, the Telegraph's Auslan Cramb notes, but for different reasons: A majority of the American families "are convinced of his guilt and believe he should die in jail in Scotland," whereas the majority of the British families "believe he is innocent and support his release."

Two British relatives of victims spoke to the Telegraph, expressing their frustration with the legal process.

"At the moment there is no other process or procedure ongoing to tell us how the bombing was carried out, why it was done, the motivation for it and who ordered it," Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was a victim, told the Telegraph.

"It's been nearly 21 years since the event and where are we? Nowhere," Martin Cadman, whose son Bill also died in the bombing, said.

Background: The Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103

In 2001, Megrahi was convicted of the murder of 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in late December 1988. The plane was bound for New York from London; 259 passengers and crew members and 11 people on the ground were killed, The New York Times reports.

Following the Lockerbie incident, Libya was hit with heavy sanctions by the U.N. because the country's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, chose not to extradite suspects, according to Time Magazine.

In 2003, with his country suffering from international economic sanctions, Gaddafi pulled Libya out of isolation and took responsibility for the Pan Am terrorist attack, paying more than $2.7 billion to the families of the victims, Time reported. Months later, Gaddafi halted efforts to produce weapons of mass destruction, according to the BBC's profile of the leader.

Key Player: Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi was born in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, in 1952. The father of five lived in the suburbs of Tripoli in his father-in-law's house before the events of December 1988, the BBC explains in a profile of Megrahi.

Proficient in English after spending time traveling and studying in the U.S. and U.K., Megrahi allegedly worked as the director of Libya's Centre for Strategic Studies, which, according to the FBI, "gave him cover to act as an intelligence officer for the Libyan Intelligence Services (JSO)," the BBC reports.

Following that position, Megrahi was the chief of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), which prosecutors said allowed him the freedom to travel to locations including Malta, where LAA had an office, and Zurich, where the timing device for the bomb found on Pam Am 103 was made. Clothing wrapped around the bomb was traced to a store in Malta, then to Megrahi, the BBC adds.

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