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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Mandela takes up bomber's case
Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela has taken an interest in the case
Nelson Mandela has called for the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing to be moved to a Muslim country.

The former South African president made his call after visiting Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow.

He said Megrahi was in virtual isolation and was being harassed by other prisoners when taking exercise.

Mr Mandela said it was unacceptable that the man convicted of the murder of 270 people on an airliner in 1998 should have to endure "psychological persecution".

He told journalists that he wants to discuss his case with UK Prime Mininster Tony Blair and US President George W.Bush.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi
Al-Megrahi was moved to Barlinnie in March
Mr Mandela played a key role in persuading Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi to hand over two suspects for trial for the 1988 attack, which killed 270 people.

Megrahi was convicted last year of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland and jailed for a minimum of 20 years.

His appeal against that guilty verdict was rejected in March, and since then he has been held in Barlinnie Prison.

Mr Mandela had been keen to see the conditions under which the Libyan intelligence agent is being held at the jail.

Shortly after Mr Mandela's arrival, Megrahi's wife Aisha and family entered the prison.

Special court

Last week Mr Mandela's spokeswoman Zelda Lagrange told the Press Association that he wanted to travel to Scotland.

"Mr Mandela has been closely involved in the case and he wants to see how the prisoner is doing and what the conditions in the prison are like," she said.

She added that the former president had also been in touch with Colonel Gaddafi about the case.

Labour MP Tam Dalyell said Mr Mandela felt a degree of responsibility for Megrahi because he had been instrumental in arranging for the trial to take place.

Megrahi family
Megrahi's family arrives at the jail
The member for Linlithgow said he personally believed the Libyan was innocent.

He speculated that Mr Mandela would ask Megrahi what he was doing in Malta at the time of the bombing - a question he had also put to the Libyan on a recent visit to Barlinnie.

"I think al-Megrahi will give the same answer he gave me - that he was operating in Malta as a sanctions buster for Libyan Arab Airlines.

"Mr Mandela will make up his own mind about the Maltese connection, but personally, I don't think there ever was one as far as Lockerbie is concerned.

"Mr Mandela will probably think that the same country should not have been complainer, prosecutor and judge in this particular matter."

'Feels responsible'

Mr Dalyell's belief in the Libyan's innocence was shared by his lawyer, Eddie McKechnie, who told BBC Scotland he has uncovered new evidence in the case.

He said: "To give one brief example of the new evidence that was not available to that trial, that is the payment of $11m to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command by Iran two days after the Lockerbie atrocity.

"It is beyond belief that there is no link between that payment and the crime."

However, Bob Monetti, president of the group called Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, said he did not believe there was a hidden agenda behind Mr Mandela's Barlinnie visit.

Mr Monetti said: "Since he is partially responsible for him being in prison perhaps he feels somewhat responsible and wants to make sure he is being treated well."

The trial of Megrahi and his co-accused Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, who was acquitted, was held at a special Scottish Court in the Netherlands.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Al-Megrahi was moved to Barlinnie three months ago"
Labour MP Tam Dalyell
"If we believe there has been a catastrophic miscarriage of justice we have a duty to pursue the matter"
Lawyer Eddie McKechnie
"There is recent new evidence now available to me"
Lockerbie relative Bob Monetti
"Perhaps he wants to see his treatment"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

AUDIO VIDEO

Appeal concludes

Key stories

Features

The trial
See also:

06 May 02 | Europe
14 Mar 02 | In Depth
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