THE cancer-stricken Lockerbie bomber could die before a decision is made on his appeal after new delays in the case, his lawyer warned today.
It was revealed that one of the judges hearing Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's long-running appeal against conviction has had heart surgery.
Scotland's top judge, the Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton, told the High Court in Edinburgh that Lord Wheatley's recuperation may
be "protracted" and it is thought he will not be fit to resume judicial duties until mid-September.
Lord Hamilton said the situation "complicates matters".
The court has already heard full submissions on two grounds of appeal, but the court will not now be able to give its decision on those grounds until the autumn.
Al Megrahi's QC, Margaret Scott, expressed dismay at the situation, but acknowledged it arose out of "unforeseen and unexpected" circumstances.
She told the court the defence wished to see a decision reached as soon as possible.
"My Lord will appreciate in this court justice delayed is justice denied," she said.
"There is a very real risk my client will die before this appeal is adjudicated."
She added that it was difficult to conceive of "more pressing circumstances".
Al Megrahi was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year.
Ms Scott told the court that her client's health was deteriorating and he was experiencing a "relentless onset of symptoms".