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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 16:20 GMT 17:20 UK
Mandela meets Lockerbie families
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela was criticised for meeting Megrahi
The former South African President Nelson Mandela has met families of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing.

Last month Mr Mandela visited the man convicted of the attack - Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi - at Barlinnie jail in Glasgow.

The visit caused controversy and his meeting with some of the families of the 270 victims is seen as an attempt to redress the balance.

Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Al-Megrahi was taken to Barlinnie in March
Some of those who spoke to Mr Mandela in London are grateful for his role in bringing Megrahi to trial, but opposed to his demands to improve the bomber's conditions.

Afterwards Mr Mandela told a media conference that the meeting had gone very well.

He said the families had come to the meeting very open-minded and had asked normal questions.

Mr Mandela was credited with persuading the former Libyan intelligence officer to surrender himself to the Scottish authorities.

'Persecution'

He also helped convince Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi to hand him over.

Al-Megrahi was jailed for life for the bombing, despite widespread fears that other people were also involved.

During his visit to the Glasgow jail last month, Mr Mandela spent an hour with the 49-year-old.

Afterwards he accused the Scottish Prison Service of "psychological persecution" for holding the bomber in solitary confinement.

Lockerbie bombing scene
The bombing claimed 270 lives
He called for al-Megrahi to be moved to a prison in a muslim country - a move rejected by the British government.

Mr Mandela's visit was criticised by a senior detective who helped the investigation.

Jim Gilchrist, the former head of Dumfries and Galloway CID, also attacked Mr Mandela's calls for the Libyan bomber to be transferred to a prison in a Muslim country.

Mr Gilchrist said: "The visit of one of the world's foremost statesmen has conferred a status upon Megrahi to which he is not entitled.

"He is a convicted mass murderer, not a political prisoner."

The former policeman suggested Mr Mandela's involvement could help pave the way for a U-turn by the UK Government

Mr Mandela also hopes to meet American relatives when he travels to the United States later this year.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Carole Jones reports
"Today's meeting is being viewed as an effort to redress the balance"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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10 Jun 02 | Scotland
10 Jun 02 | Scotland
10 Jun 02 | Scotland
11 Jun 02 | Scotland
25 Apr 02 | Scotland
16 Apr 02 | Scotland
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