Lockerbie bomb appeal lined up for summer

THE appeal launched by the Lockerbie bomber against the length of his sentence is due to be heard this summer, it emerged yesterday.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi's legal bid against his 27-year minimum prison sentence will be considered by a panel of five judges on 11 and 12 July, the Scottish Executive said.

At the same time, a counter-appeal by the Crown Office arguing that the sentence was unduly lenient will also be heard.

Tony Kelly, Megrahi's solicitor, questioned the fixing of the hearing. "I find it illogical, when we are still waiting to hear whether there is to be an appeal against conviction," he said.

Megrahi has had an application before the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission since September 2003. It investigates possible miscarriages of justice and has the power to refer a case to the Court of Criminal Appeal, even if an appeal has previously been heard and refused, as happened to Megrahi.

Mr Kelly did not know when the commission might decide on a referral, but said the process must be in its closing stages. A successful appeal against conviction would make an appeal against sentence unnecessary.

"So what is the point in holding this hearing at this stage?" asked Mr Kelly.

A court spokesman said that as an appeal against sentence had been lodged and was outstanding, it was right to press on with it. He added: "There might be a referral from the commission, but there might not be."

Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of bombing Pan Am flight 103 and killing 270 people.

A fellow Libyan, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was acquitted.