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Question of the Day
BENGHAZI, Libya (AP) — Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer who was the only person ever convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, died at home in Tripoli on Sunday, nearly three years after he was released from a Scottish prison to the outrage of the relatives of the attack’s 270 victims. He was 60.
Scotland released al-Megrahi on Aug. 20, 2009, on compassionate grounds to let him return home to die after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. At the time, doctors predicted he had only three months to live.
Anger over the release was further stoked by the hero’s welcome he received on his arrival in Libya and by subsequent allegations that London had sought his release to preserve business interests in the oil-rich North African nation. The British and Scottish governments have strongly denied those charges.
Al-Megrahi insisted he was innocent, but he kept a strict silence after his release, living in the family villa surrounded by high walls in a posh Tripoli neighborhood, mostly bedridden or taking a few steps with a cane.
Libyan authorities sealed him off from public access. When the one-year anniversary of his release passed, some who visited him said al-Megrahi bitterly mused that the world was rooting for him to die.
His son, Khaled al-Megrahi, confirmed in a telephone interview that he died in Tripoli but hung up before giving more details.
Saad Nasser al-Megrahi, a relative and a member of the ruling National Transitional Council, said al-Megrahi’s health had seriously deteriorated in recent days and he died of cancer-related complications.
Al-Megrahi passed away at his Tripoli home on Sunday morning, according to another council member, Moussa al-Kouni.
To the end, al-Megrahi insisted he had nothing to do with the bombing, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans.
The father of one of the Lockerbie victims said al-Megrahi’s death was “to a degree a relief” and insisted that his 2009 release from jail was a political deal.
“If he had been that bad three years ago, he wouldn’t have lived this long. It was a political deal,” said Glenn Johnson of Greensburg, Pa, whose 21-year-old daughter, Beth Ann Johnson, was killed in the bombing.
“No one takes pleasure in someone’s death, but he died an unrepentant murderer,” added Frank Duggan, a Washington, D.C.-area lawyer and president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which represents the relatives of those who died in the bombing.
Al-Megrahi’s death came seven months after ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi was killed.
The United States, Britain, and prosecutors in his trial contended that he did not act alone and carried out the bombing at the behest of Libyan intelligence. After Col. Gadhafi’s fall, Britain asked Libya’s new rulers to help fully investigate the bombing.
In the months ahead of his release, Tripoli put enormous pressure on Britain, warning that if the ailing al-Megrahi died in a Scottish prison, all British commercial activity in Libya would be cut off and a wave of demonstrations would erupt outside British embassies, according to leaked U.S. diplomatic memos. The Libyans even implied “that the welfare of [British] diplomats and citizens in Libya would be at risk,” the memos say.
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