Page last updated at 19:23 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Lockerbie bomber applies for bail

Megrahi is serving life for the bombing which killed 270 people

The man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, has applied to be released on bail, pending his appeal.

Arguments are due to be heard in the High Court in Edinburgh next Thursday.

Earlier this month, his lawyer announced that the Libyan was suffering from advanced prostate cancer.

Megrahi is serving a minimum of 27 years in Greenock prison for the bombing, which killed 270 people. He has so far served seven years.

The 56-year-old is appealing against his 2001 conviction and the length of his sentence.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, blamed the slow appeal process for the current predicament.

In the past, Megrahi has said he didn't want to come out of prison except as a free man. But things have changed lately
Reevel Alderson
BBC Scotland Home Affairs correspondent

And he supported Megrahi being granted interim liberation, saying the Libyan reportedly did not have long to live.

Keeping him away from his family in such a situation would amount to torture, Dr Swire said.

He added: "Had we shown greater speed and determination to see this appeal launched, then we might well not now be faced with the dilemma which is that of a dying man who may or may not be guilty of the dreadful crime alleged against him.

Prof Robert Black reads a relative's statement: 'This looks uncomfortably like an aspect of revenge or timidity'

"The man has reportedly got months to live. My personal feelings are that to force him to remain segregated from his family and his five children for the short remaining time that he may have before him would amount to exquisite torture."

BBC Scotland's Home Affairs correspondent Reevel Alderson said: "In the past, Megrahi has said he didn't want to come out of prison except as a free man. But things have changed lately.

"He is suffering from an advanced form of prostate cancer which has spread to other parts of his body.

"Nobody is saying whether his condition is terminal or talking about his life expectancy but it's quite clear Megrahi is very ill and now he has finally applied to the High Court to be allowed to be released while the legal moves go on and they're very, very protracted."

'Compassionate grounds'

Mr Alderson said there had been no reaction from official sources, such as the Crown Office, apart from to confirm that the hearing would take place.

However, he said this was not unusual.

"If Megrahi is found to be terminally ill with a very short life expectancy, then he could apply to the first minister to be released on compassionate grounds."

Mr Alderson said he had just spoken to one set of American relatives who felt Megrahi should be allowed out as there was no point in keeping him in prison.

However, he added: "I don't think that is a view that is widely shared though, particularly with the American relatives."

After the disclosure that Megrahi had prostate cancer, there were calls for his appeal against his 2001 conviction to be speeded up.

The possibility of a transfer back to Libya has also been raised.

Mr Salmond said the Scottish Government never commented on the medical condition of any prisoner.

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