Page last updated at 10:27 GMT, Friday, 31 October 2008

Bomber release 'common humanity'

Dr Jim Swire

The father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing has criticised the slow appeal process faced by the man convicted of the attack.

Dr Jim Swire was speaking as it emerged that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi had applied to be released on bail after hospital tests showed he had prostate cancer.

Dr Swire's daughter, Flora, was one of the 270 victims of the 1988 atrocity.

He said the question of whether Megrahi should be released was one of "common humanity".

Megrahi was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in 2001.

He lost an appeal in 2002, but was given a fresh chance to clear his name in June last year when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) referred his case back to appeal judges for a second time.

His appeal is due to be heard next year.

Dr Swire said he supported Megrahi being granted interim liberation because the Libyan reportedly does not have long to live.

'Dying man'

He claimed that keeping Megrahi away from his family in such a situation would amount to "torture".

And Dr Swire said that "greater speed" in his appeal could have avoided the dilemma involving a "dying man who may or may not be guilty of the dreadful crime alleged against him".

He said: "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."

A decision on Megrahi's application for release will be made next week.

Former Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who is convinced of Megrahi's innocence, added the bail application was "wholly sensible".

The Crown Office would not comment on next week's hearing apart from to confirm it was taking place.

A spokeswoman said: "The Crown will have the opportunity to address the court during the hearing and it would not be appropriate for the Crown to make its position now outwith the court."

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has said the Scottish Government never commented on the medical condition of any prisoner.

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