Get IOL's cool new iPad app...
London - The Libyan man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am airliner which killed 270 people was freed from a jail in Scotland "to die in Libya," Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said Thursday.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, 57, who is suffering from terminal prostate cancer, was due to be flown to Libya immediately after his release. He served eight years of a life sentence passed in 2001.
MacAskill said he decided to free al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, strictly following the law.
The decision has prompted an angry response from the US government and relatives of the 189 US victims of the attack.
MacAskill, addressing those concerns, said he was aware that "many will not agree with my decision."
However, while al-Megrahi had shown "no comfort or compassion" to his victims, it was not right for the Scottish government to "deny him compassion."
Al-Megrahi had three months to live, medical evidence showed, according to MacAskill. "He may die sooner, he may live longer," he added.
"Al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die," said the minister.
A plane ready to transport the former prisoner to Libya was earlier reported to be on its way to Glasgow, in Scotland to enable al-Megrahi to be back in Libya for Friday, the start of Ramadan. - Sapa-dpa