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Thursday, 14 March, 2002, 17:18 GMT
'Irony' of bomber's jail treatment
The Lockerbie bomber will serve his sentence at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow
Al-Megrahi has been sentenced to life in prison
The Lockerbie bomber can expect better treatment than other inmates in Scottish jails, according to a lawyer representing prisoners.

Tony Kelly said Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was unlikely to endure the "appalling regime" faced by other inmates.

Following the failure of his appeal, al-Megrahi is expected to arrive in Scotland and be placed in isolation in a high security unit at Barlinnie Prison, Glasgow.


I can't imagine that Mr Megrahi will be housed in the conditions of many of the convicted prisoners in Barlinnie

Tony Kelly
Solicitor
Mr Kelly said it was "ironic" that the man convicted of one of the world's worst crimes should be treated so differently from inmates convicted of much lesser offences.

The solicitor has been an outspoken critic of conditions in Scotland's largest jail. One of his clients successfully brought a legal challenge against the "degrading" practice of slopping out, where prisoners must use a pot or bucket instead of a toilet.

He said: "I can't imagine that Mr Megrahi will be housed in the conditions of many of the convicted prisoners in Barlinnie.

'Appalling regime'

"They have to endure a regime that's pretty appalling. Each of them have to slop out, they have to be housed in a cell that's built for one person but they have to share it with a cellmate.

"And some of them are locked up for 20 hours a day, I can't imagine Mr Megrahi will have to endure conditions such as that."

Mr Kelly said his experience of prison life would be markedly different from that of other inmates.

Prison officer
Barlinnie is Scotland's largest jail
He said: "The inmates are housed in three huge Victorian halls in pretty appalling conditions and I think it's rather ironic that Mr Megrahi is going to housed simply a matter of metres away.

"I can imagine with all the diplomatic muscle that he can get up that's there's no prospect of him having to endure the conditions that my clients have to endure."

Scotland's largest prison, which is nicknamed Bar-L, is preparing for the arrival of the man found guilty of the Lockerbie bombing.

Al-Megrahi, 49, was jailed for life in January 2001 after he was found guilty of mass murder, with a recommendation that he should serve at least 20 years.

Security cordon

It is believed that arrangements are in place to move al-Megrahi to a special unit within Barlinnie - an area nicknamed Gaddafi's Café - late on Thursday.

The Lockerbie bomber - who has been imprisoned at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands since April 1999 - must serve his sentence in Scotland.

A strict security cordon will be thrown around Barlinnie for the Libyan's arrival.

Armed police at Camp Zeist
Al-Megrahi was held at Camp Zeist
It is understood that the helicopter bringing al-Megrahi from Holland will touch down on the prison's football pitches.

He will then set foot on Scottish soil before being taken the short distance to his new home in a convoy of security vehicles.

A large presence of armed Scottish police officers is understood to have arrived at the prison overnight in anticipation of Thursday's court judgement.

Halal food

Preparations to receive anyone convicted of the Lockerbie bombing began at the prison about a decade ago.

A special unit was established in the prison's health centre.

Originally designed to hold two accused, it is thought to contain six rooms including a bedroom, sitting room and an area where special Halal food can be prepared for al-Megrahi.

The conditions are expected to be more spartan than those experienced by the Libyan during his three years at Camp Zeist.

In Holland, al-Megrahi had access to satellite television in Arabic, visits from family and diplomats and the use of an exercise bike.

HM chief inspector of prisons Clive Fairweather predicted that the conditions at Barlinnie would be "pretty basic".

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Alan Grant reports
"The speculation is that al-Megrahi will be kept on his own in a specially constructed unit"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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