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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 16:26 GMT 17:26 UK
PM rejects Lockerbie bomber's jail plea
Barlinnie
The Libyan delegation visited Megrahi in prison
Prime Minister Tony Blair has ruled out moving the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing from a Scottish prison.

It follows demands by the former South African President Nelson Mandela last week that the man convicted of the 1988 atrocity, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, should be moved to a Muslim country.

Mr Blair's comments came as senior Libyan politicians cast doubt on whether their country's leader Colonel Gadaffi will pay any compensation to the relatives of the victims.

The Libyan delegation, which visited the convicted bomber at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow on Sunday, said Megrahi wants to be moved.

Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi
Megrahi was taken to Barlinnie in March

However, they said that they accepted the deal agreed before the Lockerbie trial, that any sentence would be served in Scotland.

Megrahi was moved to the Scottish jail in March when he lost an appeal against his murder conviction for smuggling a bomb aboard Pan Am Flight 103, which exploded over Lockerbie in 1988, with the loss of 270 lives.

Mr Blair said he could see "no reason" to move the Megrahi from the prison.

He was tackled on the issue in the Commons by Father of the House Tam Dalyell, who is publicly backing Megrahi's claims of innocence.

Intelligence agent

The veteran Labour MP asked: "Is the plea by President Mandela that the Lockerbie prisoner be transferred to a Muslim country being considered?"

The PM replied at question time: "The very agreement that we made was that he would come to a Scottish prison, in fact that anyone who was convicted would come to a Scottish prison.

"I see no reason, I have to say, to change that decision."

The Libyan delegation, headed by foreign affairs secretary Suleiman Sasi Al-Shahoumi, repeated their assertion that the Libyan intelligence agent is innocent.

Tam Dalyell
Tam Dalyell: Believes Megrahi is innocent

They said his defence team failed to "put forward the full facts of the case".

The Scottish lawyers who conducted Megrahi's defence have denied the accusations.

Mr Shahoumi said his country would not be paying compensation to the relatives of those who died in the atrocity.

He said: "There is a Libyan citizen in Britain unjustly in prison. Scotland has a just and fair legal system, but we blame Megrahi's defence team who did not put forward various facts."

"We believe history will reveal in the future the innocence of Mr Megrahi.

"We are certain he is innocent, therefore we have never accepted the principle of paying compensation."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Tim Reid reports
"The Libyans remain convinced he is innocent"
Lockerbie megapuff graphic

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See also:

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