Leader: Some questions will not die with Megrahi’s passing

anciful conspiratorial theories that Abdelbaset ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie mass killer and one of the world’s worst terrorists, had been spirited out of Libya or was living in some hidden luxury have now been shown to be just that – fanciful. Throughout the revolution he has been resident at his family villa in Tripoli.

The television pictures of him and accounts by reporters now make it also clear that he is at death’s door. He is unable to eat and has no medications which might make, barring some wholly improbable miracle, his last few days comfortable. The prostate cancer which, two years ago, was expected to take his life within three months has only been stayed and will follow its inexorable course.

The revolution which has ousted his mentor, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, has also taken away his medical relief. Family pleas that Scotland should now supply those medications are understandable, but absurd. This is not a question of hoping his last few hours should be ones of unending pain as some sort of dreadful retributive justice. It is a straightforward matter that his condition is now so advanced that no treatment can be given. People whose relatives have been in this condition know that the best medical course is for those affected to be given extensive doses of morphine to dull any pain and to pray that death comes soon.

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Moreover, it is likely that most Libyans would regard it as an insult if someone who was a hero of the pantheon of Libyan evil was to be singled out for special treatment. All Libya is desperately short of medicine and hospital facilities to treat the victims of the last supporters of Col Gaddafi’s regime, and those victims have priority for the aid shipments of medical goods that are desperately needed.

The only regret about Megrahi’s imminent demise is that he will take his secrets, about the destruction of Pan AM 103, to his grave. The complicity of the Gaddafi regime in that act of terrorism is, thanks to the testimony of defecting highly placed people in the regime, no longer in doubt.

What remains to be resolved, however, is the identity of the others undoubtedly involved in its planning and execution.

Scottish Government ministers will be privately grateful his life will soon end. That he has survived two years when they proclaimed he had only three months to live has been a monumental embarrassment.

But perhaps Mr Salmond will also be apprehensive. He has refused to release the medical records containing the information on which his justice minister, Kenny MacAskill, claims to have based his decision to release Megrahi. But when he dies, the claim they should remain confidential on grounds of patient confidentiality becomes less robust, if not entirely extinct. Megrahi may die within days, but the controversy surrounding him will live for many months, if not years.