IT was his last daily phone call in a year-long sequence. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi told his mother in Tripoli from Camp Zeist: ''Take care of yourself, don't worry about me.''

The stoic acceptance of his fate emerged when he spoke to his mother, Fatima, 79, before being sent to jail. His brother, Mohamed Ali, told The Herald yesterday: ''He is very good. He is believing in Allah, he is trusting in Allah. He accepted the decision like a brave man, even though he knows he is innocent.''

Friends and relatives crowded outside the low white-washed walls of the Megrahi family home in a narrow lane in the south of Tripoli, after learning their youngest son was going to prison for a very long time. Elsewhere, the city simmered gently in the early summer sun.

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Mohamed smiled defiantly as he explained that his brother had taken the news as a good Muslim. ''This is a wish from Allah and we believe in Allah and everything comes by rotation and tide.

''Nobody from our country and society believes in western justice. They showed they are below the Third World like us because they bow to pressure from superior countries.''

Mohamed was still furious that anyone could consider his brother a terrorist. ''No, never. Believe me, he is a very sensitive man, he loves everybody. Ask anybody who knows him,'' he said, as his rage threatened to overflow.

He stood outside the house where a day earlier I was invited in for coffee and left clutching gifts. Then there had been hope - yesterday there was only despair and anger. ''They picked the wrong person, the right cause. They must get justice, yes. They have to find the person responsible so that my brother can be set free.'' His words were almost drowned out by his mother's wails from inside the house. ''It was a surprising decision. Everybody is upset about this,'' he said, waving a hand inside. ''We trusted western justice, but now ...''

A friend of Megrahi, standing outside the house, added: ''It is not fair. He has nothing to do with the case.'' For someone with little access to foreign media, he showed a remarkable knowledge of British law and its miscarriages of justice.

''Look at the Guildford Four,'' he said. ''They were in prison for years and years before anyone said they were innocent.''

Tripoli, with its Mediterranean views and Italian villas - the legacy of former rulers - does not feel like an African city. Sit at one of the cafes around the Green Square and you could almost be in Naples, but with worse coffee and portraits of Colonel Gaddafi at every turn.

The scene was almost serene, but just beneath the laid-back exterior of the coffee drinkers was a burning sense of injustice. ''Where is the evidence? If he is guilty, then he deserves to go to prison but he is innocent,'' said Ibrahim Belhau, a student.

''Yes, we are angry. Ask anybody, we are all angry,'' said a taxi driver.

''We know there is the best law in Scotland and we don't blame England or Scotland. The problem is America.''

Colonel Gaddafi's political rhetoric inside the country was operating at full blast. State radio was broadcasting non-stop coverage of the court outcome.

A government official said compensation would be paid to families of the Lockerbie victims only if compensation were paid to Libya. He said: ''People have a right to compensation where their relatives are killed, but what is right in one country must be right in another country. It is logical.''

A written statement issued by the foreign ministry expressed shock at the verdict and claimed the appeal had failed to take account of fresh evidence.

''The committee wants to confirm once again its belief in the innocent of the Libya citizen Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi and consider the verdict of the appeal delivered against him to be simply a political judgment imposed by specific parties.

''The committee confirms its belief that verdicts have nothing to do with the law and we repeat our belief of the right of the Libyan people who demand compensation for the damage inflicted by the unjust sanction imposed because of the Lockerbie issue.''

The message inside Libya is clear. Megrahi may be starting his life sentence, but Colonel Gaddafi has not been defeated.