Page last updated at 23:26 GMT, Tuesday, 4 August 2009 00:26 UK

Minister visits Lockerbie bomber

By Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland Home Affairs Correspondent

Lockerbie bomber Megrahi
Megrahi was ordered to serve a minimum of 27 years in jail

Scotland's justice secretary has visited the Lockerbie bomber amid speculation he might be moved to Libya.

Kenny MacAskill met Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi in Greenock Prison as he considers a transfer request from the Libyan government.

The minister has already heard the views of others, including relatives of some of the 270 victims of the December 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Terminally-ill Megrahi has also asked to be freed on compassionate grounds.

The transfer request was made by Libya to the UK government last May, less than a week after a treaty allowing prisoners to be transferred between the two countries was ratified.

Missed deadline

Under the agreement, the country holding a prisoner should give its answer within 90 days.

Decisions about prisoners are the responsibility of the Scottish Government, in effect giving Mr MacAskill the final say.

Mr MacAskill said last week he would miss the 90-day deadline, which expired on 3 August, because he was waiting for more information.

No transfer can take place if criminal proceedings are active, meaning Megrahi would have to drop his latest appeal against his conviction in order to be sent home.

He was ordered to remain in prison for a minimum of 27 years having been found guilty of murdering 270 people in the bombing of Pan-Am Flight 103.

Kenny MacAskill
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill is expected to make his decision shortly

Mr MacAskill has embarked upon a series of consultations with interested parties, including relatives of American victims with whom he held a video conference.

While unusual for a minister to discuss a prisoner's case with him while he remains in jail, Mr MacAskill is understood to believe the visit is important to allow him to consider all of the facts.

Megrahi's legal team have also made a separate request for him to released from prison on compassionate grounds as he is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.

An earlier request, made in October 2008, was rejected by Appeal Court judges after they heard medical evidence that with adequate palliative care, Megrahi could live for several years.

The court heard that such requests are normally only granted where a prisoner has less than three months to live.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Times Online Do not set 'guilty' Lockerbie bomber free, detectives plead - 14 hrs ago
Washington PostScottish justice minister meets Lockerbie bomber - 34 hrs ago
New York Times Britain: Release for 88 Pan Am Bomber? - 34 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Scotland considers freeing Lockerbie bomber - 37 hrs ago
The Independent Lockerbie prisoner awaits news on Libya return new - 40 hrs ago
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