- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

STOCKHOLM — The Swedish tabloid Expressen on Wednesday said Libya’s ex-justice minister claims that Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988.

Expressen on Wednesday quoted Mustafa Abdel-Jalil as telling their correspondent in Libya, “I have proof that Gadhafi gave the order about Lockerbie.” He didn’t describe the proof.

Mr. Abdel-Jalil stepped down as justice minister to protest the violence against anti-government demonstrators.

He told Expressen that Mr. Gadhafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

“To hide it, (Gadhafi) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying.

Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. He is still alive.

Expressen spokeswoman Alexandra Forslund said its reporter, Kassem Hamade, interviewed the ex-justice minister at “a local parliament in a large city in Libya.” She didn’t want to name the city, citing security concerns.

Expressen taped the interview, which was conducted in Arabic and translated to Swedish, Ms. Forslund said.

Mr. Gadhafi has been trying to bring his country out of isolation, announcing in 2003 that he was abandoning his program for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism.

Mr. Gadhafi also accepted Libya’s responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the victims’ families, but he hasn’t admitted personally giving the order for the attack.

Most of the victims in the Lockerbie bombing were Americans, and al-Megrahi’s release has been criticized by members of the U.S. Congress and the victims’ families.

Bob Monetti of Cherry Hill, N.J., whose 20-year-old son, Richard, was killed in the bombing, said he’s glad to hear a former official say what’s been clear to him all along. He said officials and the media, especially in the United Kingdom, have been denying that.

“Ever since the trial, which was held in a totally obscure location in Holland and was covered by nobody, there’s been a drumbeat in the U.K. about how this is a trumped-up thing and Libya had nothing to do with it,” he said. “If you went to the trial, there was no question about who did it and why, and who ordered it.”

Mr. Monetti said he’s been following coverage of the Libyan uprising closely.

“I can’t wait until we see pictures of Gadhafi hanging by his heels,” he said.

• Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, N.J., contributed to this report.