Scotland has no plans to demand Megrahi return
LONDON (Reuters) - Scotland said on Monday it had no plans to request the extradition of the Libyan convicted of the 1988 bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was found guilty of bombing Pan Am flight 103 while en route from London to New York on December 21, 1988. A total of 270 people were killed.
Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland in 2001, but released two years ago on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya because he was suffering from advanced terminal prostate cancer and thought to have months to live.
His release and return to a hero's welcome in Libya, coupled with his survival long beyond doctors' predictions, infuriated many in the United States -- home to most of the victims. Senior British politicians called for him to be returned to jail.
After some confusion over his whereabouts this week in the chaos accompanying the overthrow of long-time Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi, media reported at the weekend that Megrahi was living in a palatial house in upmarket Tripoli, although a reporter who saw him said he seemed "at death's door."
Gaddafi's fall raised hopes among some for Megrahi's extradition to Scotland or the United States.
However, Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) said it had no intention of agreeing to any such request, and Scotland has no plans to make one.
"The only people with any legal entitlement to call for his return to Scotland are the Scottish government," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmon said in an e-mailed statement.
"We have never had -- and do not have -- any intention of asking for the extradition of Mr al-Megrahi, because he has conformed to his license conditions."
Mahmoud Shammam, NTC spokesman, told Reuters that Megrahi was not the rebels' main priority: "We understand that this issue is very important to some of our Western allies, but for now we are very busy with securing the country, number 1."
Britain's Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has said he would like to see Megrahi back in jail. Prime Minister David Cameron, who took office in May 2010, has called the release a mistake.
However, Scotland is responsible for its own legal system.
"Perhaps if we all followed due process of law as the Scottish government has done and ceased the international politicking around this, then we could all be in a much better place," Salmond earlier told Sky News, in a barely veiled criticism of those who have attacked Megrahi's release.
"The views of American senators, of American lawyers, of the UK Foreign Secretary and of the Deputy Prime Minister have no bearing on this issue."
Salmond leads the Scottish National Party, which has run the country since 2007. Cameron's Conservatives, Clegg's Liberal Democrats and the Labour party which governed Britain at the time of Megrahi's release all sit in opposition to the SNP in the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh.
Scottish leaders have always defended their decision to show compassion to a dying man, in line with established Scottish policy. They reject suggestions the release was timed to help Britain win diplomatic and commercial favors from Gaddafi.
"The latest pictures broadcast of Mr al-Megrahi clearly demonstrate that he is an extremely sick man, dying of terminal prostate cancer. Hopefully, this will end the ridiculous conspiracy theories that seek to claim anything else," Salmond said in his statement.
A CNN correspondent said on Sunday that he had found Megrahi in a house in an upmarket part of Tripoli, guarded by at least six security cameras and attended to by concerned relatives.
"He appears to be a shell of the man that he was, far sicker than he appeared before ... at death's door," the reporter said.
Sky News reported Megrahi's family as saying his cancer drugs had been stolen and he was slipping in and out of a coma.
Lockerbie residents interviewed by Reuters last week said they believed Megrahi should not have been released but were split on whether he should be extradited -- although none thought he should be sent to the United States.
Some people believe Megrahi was made a scapegoat for the bombing. Others hoped that once Gaddafi -- at whose rallies Megrahi appeared -- fell from power, the alleged former Libyan intelligence service officer would be able to provide more information on whoever ordered the bombing.
"Even if he were to be questioned, Megrahi will have nothing to add to the fact that he claims innocence of involvement in the atrocity," said Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the bombing, and who has previously described Megrahi's conviction as a "terrible parody of justice."
"However, we should remember that he was a member of the Libyan intelligence service at the time of his handover for trial and therefore for all I know he may have some evidence against other people in the Libyan regime," he told Sky News.
(Editing by Alistair Lyon)