Page last updated at 21:56 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 22:56 UK

US stands against bomber release

I would just be horrified, says Kathleen Flynn who lost her son in the bombing

US officials have said the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing should serve out his sentence following reports that he could be released.

The BBC understands Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who has terminal cancer, is likely to be freed next week.

A US official told the BBC that they had no information that he was set be released on compassionate grounds.

However, he added that the American position remained that Megrahi should complete his jail term in Scotland.

The Scottish Government is currently considering applications for either Megrahi's transfer to a Libyan jail or his release.

James Robbins
James Robbins, BBC diplomatic correspondent

The past few years have seen Libya move from pariah status as a country sponsoring terrorism to a nation now held up as a model for others to follow.

The rewards have been great - Libya's oil industry has been rescued from gradual breakdown by the return of international investment and modernisation.

Colonel Gaddafi himself can attend prestigious international gatherings again. Britain and Libya even co-operate in sharing some intelligence, even if big questions still remain over human freedoms in Libya.

But now differences of view about what should happen to Scotland's Libyan prisoner threaten to upset a clear narrative which Britain and the United States were very happy with.

A US official told the BBC they had "no information to suggest that the Scottish authorities have taken any decision" to release Megrahi.

The official added: "We maintain our long-standing position that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland for his part in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103."

The reports that he could be freed on compassionate grounds provoked mixed reactions from the families of the victims of the 1988 bombing.

Stephanie Bernstein, who lost her husband Michael, said his release would send a message that terrorism was not taken seriously.

She told BBC Radio 5 live: "I think it would play right into Colonel Gaddafi's hands.

"It shows that if you bide your time and if you wait long enough you can be rewarded, and this is what Colonel Gaddafi has done."

Kathleen Flynn, whose son was killed, said Megrahi should "never qualify for anything compassionate".

"My husband and I went to the trial practically every day for many, many years," she said.

"We watched all the evidence and there is no question in my mind that this man is guilty."

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi
The Scottish Government said no decision had been made on Megrahi

Some British relatives of the victims believe Megrahi was only a small part of the terrorist plot, while others believe he should not have been convicted at all.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, said he had never been convinced that Megrahi had carried out the bombing.

"The sooner he is back with his family, the better," he said.

"On reasonable human grounds it is the right thing to do.

"If it's true that he is to be returned on compassionate grounds, then that would be more to Scotland's credit than returning him under the prison transfer agreement."

Martin Cadman, who lost his son Bill, would also support Megrahi's release.

He said: "I think he is innocent and even if he were not innocent, I still think it's the right thing to do on compassionate grounds."

Lockerbie resident Maxwell Kerr, who witnessed the devastation caused by the bombing, said he was also in favour of Megrahi being freed.

"As far as I'm concerned he should be released on compassionate grounds," he told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme.

However, the Scottish Government stressed that no decision had been made on Megrahi's application for release.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said he had listened to the representations from everyone "with a legitimate interest".

'No decision'

"I now have to reflect," he said.

"I'm conscious that I have to do that as speedily as possible.

"Clearly he's terminally ill and there are other factors, but I have made no decision yet."

It is an outrage that he might be released on this or any other basis
Tom Moore, Ohio, US

Megrahi was convicted of murder in January 2001 at a trial held under Scottish law in the Netherlands.

A first appeal against that verdict was rejected the following year.

However, in 2007 the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission granted him a second appeal.

It subsequently emerged he was suffering from terminal cancer but a bid to have him granted bail was refused.

His second appeal got under way this year. Shortly afterwards applications were made for both his transfer to a Libyan jail and release on compassionate grounds.

He would have to abandon his appeal if he was to be returned to Libya under a prisoner transfer.

However, South of Scotland SNP MSP Christine Grahame predicted that Megrahi's appeal would continue if he was granted compassionate release.

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