By George Grant.
Derna, 20 May:
Abdelbasit Al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the Lockerbie bombing in 1988 in which 270 people . . .[restrict]were killed, died peacefully in Tripoli earlier today. He was 60.
He was found guilty in January 2001 by a special Scottish court sitting in The Hague for involvement in the downing of Pan Am flight 103, believed by many to have been ordered by Muammar Qaddafi, and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was released by the Scottish regional government in August 2009 on compassionate grounds having been diagnosed with cancer and doctors saying that he had only three months to live . The decision provoked outrage the UK and the US: many of those who died in the bombing were American. In the event he lived for another three years.
Megrahi has always maintained his innocence.
As soon as the news of his death spread, his relatives and friends went to his house to offer their condolences. Dozens of cars were parked in front of the family home but nobody was willing to speak with the media at the time.
However, member of the family told Libya Herald that Megrahi had died at noon at home in his bed. He was conscious just before he died and was surrounded by his wife, sons and his sister. He did not say any specific words before he died. He will will be buried tomorrow after ”Doher” prayer in Janzour.
His death has been met with regret in Libya, although not because he enjoys much sympathy.
“With Megrahi dead, the truth about Lockerbie goes with him to the grave, and I am sorry for that”, said Dr Adel Anaiba, 49, a member of the Derna Local Council in eastern Libya. “As a Muslim, I must say God bless his soul, but as a Libyan, I will remember him as the bad man he was.”
Hani Ben Ali, 46, an industrial engineer living in Tripoli, echoed a sentiment often heard outside Libya, that there was much more to Lockerbie than Megrahi. “I think he was a scapegoat. I don’t doubt that he was involved, but I do not believe that he was the main player in all this.”
This view is also shared by Ben Ali’s cousin, Mohsen Benani, 55, who compiled an extensive file of news-cuttings and other pieces of information in the immediate aftermath of Lockerbie and subsequently. “From very early on in this affair it became clear that Al-Megrahi was just one part of a bigger picture. The really interesting question, to my mind, is why he was released from Scotland in the first place.”
All of this adds weight to renewed calls for Scotland Yard to take advantage of Qaddafi’s demise and come to Libya to reopen the Lockerbie investigation.
“Absolutely Scotland Yards should be allowed to Libya if that will help further the investigation”, Dr Anaiba said. “I have no objections”.
Others question just how fruitful such an investigation would be, however. “I’m not sure how much more Scotland Yard will find if they come to Libya”, says Benani. “I suspect they already know most of what there is to know. The question is whether or not they are willing to release the information.”
The official spokesman of the National Transitional Council, Mohammed el Hareyzi told Libya Herald that “no officials from the government will attend the funeral. The investigation will continue. We will not forget the families of the Lockerbie bombing”.
With added input from Nafissa Assed [/restrict]