- Libya - Lockerbie bombing - Scotland - terrorism - UK
REUTERS - The Scottish government is poised to decide whether to allow the former Libyan agent convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing to be released from prison and return home, a spokesman said on Wednesday.
An American lawyer who worked on the defence team of Abdel Basset al Megrahi said the Libyan, who is 57 and has terminal prostate cancer, was to be released imminently on compassionate grounds.
A Libyan official in Tripoli said an agreement was "in the last steps" but added that a deal had also been struck that neither side would make any official announcement about Megrahi's release until he was on home soil.
Al Megrahi was convicted under Scottish law and sentenced to life in prison for blowing up a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it flew from London to New York on Dec. 18, 1988. The bomb killed all 259 people on board, including 189 Americans, and 11 people on the ground.
Frank Rubino, an American lawyer who previously worked on Megrahi's legal team, told Britain's Sky television that he had been told by al Megrahi's current defence team the Libyan would be allowed to go home soon.
"I am told that it will be in the very near future," he said.
Libya has repeatedly lobbied for al Megrahi's release -- most recently at a meeting in Italy between Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July.
British defence contractors are expected to benefit from any warming of relations between the two countries and al Megrahi's release would be the latest milestone on Libya's journey from pariah state to a country restored to the international fold.
Libyan authorities made an application in July on behalf of al Megrahi, asking or him to be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return home.
Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill met al Megrahi to discuss the application last week in Greenock prison where he was being held.
"The deal is now already in the last steps," the Libyan official, who did not want to be identified, said in Tripoli. "We have an agreement between the two sides not to make any statement until he (al Megrahi) comes home."
A Scottish government spokeswoman said "no decision has been made". MacAskill was "still considering all the representations ... and hopes to make a decision this month", she added.
Four years after al Megrahi's conviction, Libya accepted responsibility for the bombing and agreed to pay about $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families -- a move that helped clear the way for the lifting of sanctions and the restoration of Libya's ties with Western states.
A decision to release al Megrahi is will anger many of the rletive of those who died.
American Kathleen Flynn, whose 21-year-old son John Patrick Flynn died in the bombing, said it was "crazy" for al Megrahi to be released from jail, noting that her husband had prostate cancer 10 years ago and he is "still alive and kicking".
"There is absolutely no reason that someone who murdered 270 people should be released on compassionate grounds," said Flynn, of Montville, New Jersey.
Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the bombing told BBC television relative had not seen justice done. She said she had been "baffled" by much of the evidence in Megrahi's trial and said, "There has been a lack of justice for the 270 people who died on and below Flight 103."