Page last updated at 18:50 GMT, Wednesday, 19 August 2009 19:50 UK

Decision reached on bomber's fate

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
Megrahi is the only person to be convicted over the bombing

A decision has been reached which could see the Lockerbie bomber freed or transferred to jail in Libya.

The Scottish justice secretary has said he will announce the fate of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi on Thursday afternoon.

Megrahi, 57, is dying from terminal prostate cancer. The BBC revealed last week that Megrahi was likely to be released on compassionate grounds.

He is serving at least 27 years in jail after his conviction for the Pan Am bomb in 1988, which killed 270 people.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he had informed families and other interested parties that he had reached his decision on the applications for prisoner transfer and compassionate release.

He will announce his decision on Thursday at 1300 BST at the Scottish Government's ministerial headquarters in Edinburgh.

Hillary Clinton: ''We think it is very much against the wishes of the family members''

It is thought preparations for Mr Megrahi's possible release were being made in time for him to be home with his family in Libya by Ramadan, which starts on Friday.

Intense pressure on the justice secretary and the Scottish Government has been mounting, including interventions from the White House.

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated her opposition to the possible release of Megrahi.

She said it would be "absolutely wrong".

"I knew a lot of these families. I talked with them about what a horror they experienced," Mrs Clinton said.

Earlier this week, a letter from seven US senators including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry urged Mr MacAskill to keep Megrahi behind bars.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We have a strong justice system in Scotland and people can be assured that the justice secretary's decisions have been reached on the basis of clear evidence and on no other factors."

Appeal dropped

Chancellor Alistair Darling, standing in for the prime minister while Gordon Brown is on holiday, said it was a decision for the Scottish Government.

On Tuesday, judges at the High Court in Edinburgh who accepted Megrahi's application to drop his appeal were told Megrahi's health had recently worsened very considerably.

By dropping his appeal, Megrahi has removed one potential obstacle to his transfer to a jail in his homeland.

However, a Crown appeal against the length of his sentence is still ongoing.

Megrahi has recently been serving his sentence at HMP Greenock, in the west of Scotland, after being convicted of the bombing under Scots law at a specially convened court in the Netherlands in 2001.


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