Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi,the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of an American jetliner over Lockerbie,Scotland,has died in Libya,family members told news agencies on Sunday,nearly three years after Scotland released him on humanitarian grounds,citing evidence that he was near death with metastatic prostate cancer. He was 60.
The death of Megrahi,who always insisted that he was not guilty,foreclosed a fuller accounting of his role,and perhaps that of the Libyan government under Col. Muammar Gaddafi,in the midair explosion of Pan Am Flight 103,which killed 270 people,including 189 Americans.
A former Libyan intelligence officer who worked undercover at Libyas national airline,Megrahi was found guilty in 2001 of orchestrating the bombing and was sentenced to life in prison,with a 27-year minimum. But after doctors said he was likely to die within three months,he was freed in 2009 under a Scottish law providing for compassionate release of prisoners with terminal illnesses.
Cheering crowds greeted his return to Libya,escorted by Gaddafis son Seif al-Islam in a grim propaganda coup. His release infuriated many families of the bombing victims.
Critics charged that Megrahis release had been a part of Libyan oil and gas deals with Britain.
After being treated at Tripolis most advanced cancer centre,Megrahi lived with his family at a villa in Tripoli at the governments expense. As civil war engulfed Libya in 2011,Western calls for his return to prison increased,especially after Gaddafi was overthrown and later killed.
Tripolis new leaders refused to return him. But,under international pressure,they signaled a willingness to get to the bottom of the Lockerbie case,still unresolved after nearly a quarter of investigations that spanned the globe,touching on Iranians,Syrians,Palestinians and Libyans.
Abdel Basset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was born in Tripoli,Libya,on April 1,1952. He had a good command of English,and in 1971,studied in Cardiff,Wales,for nine months,then made trips each to the US and Britain in the late 1970s. Megrahi and his wife,Aisha,were married in 1982 and had four sons and a daughter.