Lockerbie bomber: 'Handing him back to Libya is a clear no-go'

IT'S easy to have sympathy with a man who, dying of cancer, probably has only months to live. It is possible, even, to understand the added frustration when that man is locked in prison for a crime he claims he never committed.

But for most people these sympathies do not stretch as far as Adbeldbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the man found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people.

And yet Al-Megrahi stands on the brink of leaving Greenock Prison. Following a prisoner transfer bid by the Libyan authorities, the former secret agent could be sent home to complete his life sentence. There, he would be outside of Scottish jurisdiction and the way he is treated will be down to the Libyans.

Only two things stand in the way of Al-Megrahi's departure: first, he must drop his second appeal against his conviction; and, even if he does, his transfer must be approved by First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.

Al-Megrahi's advisers say he would only drop the appeal reluctantly as that would confirm his guilt in many people's eyes. But with a poor prognosis for his prostate cancer, and his family currently splitting their time between Libya and Scotland to see him, the temptation must be strong to cut and run.

So the odds are high that Mr Salmond and Edinburgh East and Musselburgh MSP Kenny MacAskill will soon face probably the hardest decision of their political lives.

Should they show some good old Scots compassion and let Al-Megrahi go home to die – and in the process ensure no chance of embarrassment for our justice system during any appeal?

The temptation to let Al-Megrahi go must be in their minds, but Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill should ignore it. They should waste no time on this no-brainer thumping towards their in-trays.

A Scottish court (albeit sitting in the Netherlands) found Al-Megrahi guilty of causing the worst mass murder in our criminal history. The crime was committed here, and the culprit should see out his sentence here – or go home as a free man exonerated by the same courts and judicial system which convicted him.