Scotland seeks contact with Lockerbie bomber

CAROUSEL - Lockerbie airline bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, left, walks onto an airplane accompanied by Libyan officials at Glasgow International Airport in Glasgow, Scotland, Aug. 20, 2009.
AP Photo

LONDON - Scottish officials overseeing the parole of a Libyan man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing say they want to contact him now that the fighting between Libyan forces and rebels has reached Tripoli.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of murdering 270 people by blowing up a U.S.-bound Pan Am plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988.

He was freed on Aug. 20, 2009, after prison doctors said he had prostate cancer and incorrectly estimated he had only three months to live.

George Barbour, a spokesman for East Renfrewshire Council near Glasgow, says the council wants to reach Megrahi soon, given the fighting in Libya's capital.

He said Monday the council wants to ensure it can continue to contact Megrahi in the same way it has for the past two years.

On Saturday, Scottish officials said they were right to release Megrahi because he was dying of cancer, even though he is still alive two years later.

Last month, Megrahi appeared at a televised rally in Tripoli alongside Muammar Qaddafi.

In a statement, a spokesman for Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said the decision to release al-Megrahi was made "on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone" and was not influenced by economic, political or diplomatic factors.

"Whether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and al-Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer," he said.

His release infuriated the families of many Lockerbie victims, who suspected Britain's ulterior motive was to improve relations with oil-rich Libya. Some relatives, however, believe al-Megrahi was wrongly convicted and that evidence points to Iranian-backed Palestinian militants as the perpetrators.