Convicted Lockerbie Bomber Al-Megrahi Dies After Cancer Battle

Posted May 20th, 2012 at 1:15 pm (UTC-5)
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A former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing has died of cancer in Tripoli, nearly three years after Scottish authorities released him from prison on compassionate grounds.

Relatives of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi say he died at his home on Sunday at the age of 60. He was the only man convicted in the attack on Pan Am flight 103 that destroyed a U.S. passenger jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people, including 11 on the ground.

A Scottish court on neutral territory in the Netherlands found al-Megrahi guilty of involvement in the bombing in 2001, two years after then-Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi handed him over to face trial.

Al-Megrahi served eight years of a life sentence in a Scottish prison before Scottish authorities released him in 2009 on compassionate grounds, citing his struggle with prostate cancer. Scottish doctors at the time said that he had only three months to live.

Al-Megrahi returned to Libya and received a hero's welcome from the Gadhafi government, triggering outrage from many families of the victims of the bombing. The U.S. government also criticized his release.

Prosecutors said al-Megrahi was part of a conspiracy to carry out the bombing on the orders of Libyan intelligence. A key part of their case was testimony from a Maltese shopkeeper who said he sold al-Megrahi a shirt that was wrapped around the bomb that brought down the plane.

Al-Megrahi denied buying the shirt or having a role in the attack.

In his final interview to British newspapers last December, he said “I am an innocent man” and asked to be left alone to die in peace with his family. He also predicted that new evidence will clear his name.

Some British relatives of the Lockerbie victims expressed regret at al-Megrahi's death, saying they long believed that he was innocent.

Other victims' relatives have accused British authorities of releasing the former Libyan intelligence agent as part of a deal with Gadhafi to ensure British access to Libyan oil. Britain has denied the charge.

Most of the passengers on Pan Am flight 103 from London to New York were Americans, including 35 Syracuse University students who were returning home for the holidays on December 21, 1988. In a statement emailed to VOA on Sunday, Syracuse University said it continues to remember its “students and all who were lost in the tragedy” and the “grief and sense of loss that all of their families and friends still bear.”