The only man convicted of Britain’s worst ever terrorist outrage has asked to be released from prison on compassionate grounds. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was jailed for 27 years for the Lockerbie bombing in 2001. His co-defendant was acquitted.
Al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal cancer, was alleged to have got the bomb onto PanAm Flight 103 in December 1988 via a connecting flight from Malta, though many people, including families of some of the 270 victims of the attack, are not convinced of his guilt, and believe he was the fall guy in a sordid stitch-up designed to end Libya’s diplomatic isolation.
In particular, sceptics have pointed to the fact that it was never mentioned at his trial that there had been a break-in at a Heathrow baggage store just 18 hours before flight 103 departed, and that someone could have smuggled a bag on board by getting it into this area.
Al-Megrahi is appealing against the verdict, and in June 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission said it feared he may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice. If his conviction were to be overturned it would, of course, raise some very inconvenient questions.