THE father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing has accused the US government of trying to “abduct” the only man convicted of the crime after it emerged it will seek to extradite him from Libya.
Jim Swire, whose 24-year-old daughter Flora was on Pan Am Flight 103 when it was blown up in December 1988, spoke out after the US state department indicated it intended to take advantage of the new Libyan government’s decision to allow Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi to be deported.
Megrahi is the only man convicted of the atrocity, but many British relatives have questioned the guilty verdict while American relatives believe he was responsible.
SNP justice secretary Kenny MacAskill provoked outrage in the US when he decided more than two years ago to release Megrahi, who is suffering from prostate cancer, on the grounds that he had three months to live.
Dr Swire described the US’s attempts to bring Megrahi to America and put him in prison as “vindictive” and questioned the validity of the move under international law.
He said: “What they want to do is take him [Megrahi] off to prison in America.
“But the US agreed that Megrahi should be tried under Scottish law and subject to its decisions. This would be the opposite of that.
“Effectively this would be an abduction of Megrahi because it would have no legal status. He is out on licence from a Scottish prison and if he is taken to America he would actually be in breach of that licence. So this is a complete legal mess.”
He added: “I am appalled by the idea. Megrahi should be left in peace to enjoy his last few weeks of life.”
The move by America to extradite Megrahi came after a senior minister in the new Libyan government said the bomber no longer enjoyed the VIP status he was granted by ousted president Muammar al-Gaddafi.
This means Libyans are willing to allow foreign governments to request his extradition, which would allow the bomber to face another trial – in America.
The US state department has said it intends to take advantage of this development.
A spokesman for the state department said it was ready to make a “formal approach” to Libya’s interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC).
The new regime in Libya has made it clear it has no intention of protecting those who were close to Gaddafi.
NTC information minister Mahmoud Shamam said: “Basically, we don’t care what happens to him. He can live his life however he wants, provided there is no legal reason why he shouldn’t.
“For example, if the Scottish [or the US] want to get him back, they can apply through the courts and we would respect any such application.”
Last month, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said the US believes Megrahi should be returned to prison.
Meanwhile, the US Senate is also preparing to put pressure on Libya’s new government to launch a formal inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez said: “We know that Megrahi didn’t act alone, and I will continue to press the new government until all the facts are revealed and we can bring some sense of final closure to the hundreds of families who are still waiting.”