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Lockerbie: Megrahi’s cancer is spreading

The health of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is deteriorating with cancer spreading throughout his body, a Libyan hospital source has revealed on the 21st anniversary of the Lockerbie bombing.

The 57-year-old was said to have arrived at the Tripoli Medical Centre, where he is being treated for prostate cancer, coughing and vomiting.

“A scan has shown a worsening of the disease, which has spread more than before,” said the hospital source.

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The medical report will raise the prospect that the Libyan is not far from death. At the time of his release in August, medical reports suggested Megrahi had just three months to live.

However, four months have now passed since he was flown from Scotland to Tripoli following the deeply contentious decision by Kenny MacAskill, Scotland’s Justice Secretary, to free him on compassionate grounds.

The Libyan is the only person to have been convicted of the bombing of New York-bound Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie on December 21 1988, in which 270 people died.

Today’s anniversary will be marked in America with an emotional address from Lockerbie priest Father Patrick Keegans.

At a memorial service at The Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia a speech by Father Keegans will claim the release of Abdelbaset al Megrahi took “courage” and was the “right decision”.

He will state that although few in America believe Megrahi to be innocent, the victims of the bombing “deserve” justice to be done.

“Twenty one years have passed and this year has been a very difficult and controversial one. The Cabinet Minister of Justice in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Kenny MacAskill, made a decision to release Abdelbaset al Megrahi on compassionate grounds. I hold that it was the right decision to make and it took great courage,” his speech will proclaim.

The medical report came as it was revealed that Megrahi had £1.8 million in a Swiss bank account when he was convicted eight years ago. The Crown Office confirmed it refused to grant bail to him as recently as November last year because of concerns he might try to access the money.

The existence of such a large sum in a personal account casts doubt on the Libyan Government’s assertion that Megrahi was simply a low-ranking airline worker.

Ben Wallace, the deputy Shadow Scottish Secretary, described the revelation as “startling”.

“Had this been known at the time, the financial web that linked Libya and Megrahi to international terrorism would have been a major plank in the Crown’s case.

“Far from being the wrong man, this suggests Megrahi was an international co-ordinator of terrorism for Libya,” said the Conservative MP for Lancaster.

Sources close to the Libyan’s defence team said they were aware of the bank account and had several explanations prepared ahead of his trial in the Netherlands in 2000.

These included that the money was given by his employer, Libyan Arab Airlines, to buy aircraft parts abroad in breach of the western trade embargo in place against Libya at the time of the bombing.

Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103, representing American families, said the Swiss bank account was one more reason why Megrahi was not willing to testify.

Last night, a spokesman for the Scottish Government said of the report about Megrahi’s deteriorating health, that this “would reflect the nature” of the medical report that informed Mr MacAskill’s decision to repatriate the Libyan.

Meantime, the Justice Secretary’s decision continued to reverberate politically as Scottish Labour branded it “an embarrassment for Scotland”.

The Justice Secretary hit back, saying through his spokesman that he had made the right decision based on medical reports and he decried Mr Baker for not having the “judgment and good sense to understand that this should not be a matter for party politicking”.

 

‘I do believe that in time the truth will emerge’

  Address by Father Patrick Keegans to the relatives of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing on December 21 1988. To be delivered at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, today.

 

 

They were lovely children, Paul, Lyndsey and Joanne. Lyndsey, 10, and her brother Paul, 13, called at my house in Sherwood Crescent, Lockerbie, delivering Christmas cards for the scouts and guides. It was December 19, 1988. Just a few days to Christmas and they were telling me about presents under the tree, grandparents coming to visit and as they left they said, “See you on Christmas Day, Father”. I never saw them again.

We might imagine that a disaster happens and then people start a process of recovery; not a bit of it.

Things get worse. It is like the mushroom cloud of a nuclear explosion and the fall-out never seems to end.

As you, the families from America, the UK and many other countries arrived in Lockerbie, our grief and our sorrow for you could not be expressed in words but were clearly visible in our eyes.

The doubts concerning the conviction [of Abdelbaset al Megrahi], the evidence and the reliability of witnesses have been well documented and led to an appeal. I know that this is not the view generally held within the United States of America, however, it is a belief held by me and many others in Scotland who have been closely and personally involved since that dark day. I do believe that he is an innocent man and that, in time, the truth of that will emerge.

Today I started by reflecting on the lovely children who died in Sherwood Crescent. You will be thinking of your own child, husband, wife, father, mother, relative or friend who died at the same time as Paul and Lyndsey and Joanne.

They deserve the best from us. They deserve justice.

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