- Associated Press - Sunday, August 28, 2011

TRIPOLI, Libya — The Libyan rebel government will not deport the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, its justice minister said Sunday, though there are new reports that Abdel Baset al-Meghrahi is on his deathbed.

New York senators on Aug. 22 asked the Libyan transitional government to hold al-Megrahi fully accountable for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people. But transitional government Justice Minister Mohammed al-Alagi told journalists in Tripoli that the request by American senators had “no meaning” because al-Megrahi already had been tried and convicted.

“We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was [dictator Moammar] Gadhafi who handed over Libyan citizens,” he said, referring to the government’s decision to turn al-Megrahi over to a Scottish court for trial.

The Scottish government released al-Megrahi in 2009, believing he would soon die of cancer. He was greeted as a hero in his native Libya and met with Col. Gadhafi.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, had encouraged the new Libyan leadership to hold al-Megrahi accountable. “A new Libya can send a strong statement to the world by declaring it will no longer be a haven for this convicted terrorist,” he said.

Al-Megrahi is the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Britain’s worst terrorist attack. His release after serving eight years of a life sentence infuriated the families of many victims, who suspected Britain’s real motive was to improve relations with oil-rich Libya.

But it may become a moot point. CNN reported from Tripoli on Sunday that al-Megrahi is comatose and near death.

“CNN found al-Megrahi under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa Sunday, surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip. The cancer-stricken former Libyan intelligence officer may be the last man alive who knows precisely who in the Libya government authorized the bombing, which killed 270 people,” the network reported on its website.

“We just give him oxygen. Nobody gives us any advice,” son Khaled told the network.

A neighbor, Yousef Mohammed, told the Associated Press that he often saw al-Megrahi in the neighborhood. “This guy is sick. All the time, I saw him in the [wheelchair],” he said.

Mr. Mohammed said he and other neighbors did not believe al-Megrahi was involved in the Lockerbie bombing and that the family was well-liked in the neighborhood.