Lockerbie bomber weak, pale in public appearance
The ailing Lockerbie bomber looked weak and pale, sitting in a wheelchair, as he was visited by a group of African parliamentarians Wednesday in a rare appearance in the hospital where he is being treated for prostate cancer, AP reported.
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi appeared for only five minutes and did not speak during the visit in the Tripoli Medical Center. Dressed in hospital scrubs, he wore a surgical mask over his mouth and nose and a traditional embroidered cap.
Al-Megrahi was freed from a Scottish prison last month on compassionate grounds because doctors said he was dying of his cancer. The release outraged the United States and many relatives of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland - and their anger was further fanned by the warm welcome al-Megrahi received when he arrived home in Libya.
Libyan officials have said little about his condition since his Aug. 20 homecoming. Al-Megrahi was rushed to the hospital 11 days later, and TV images at the time showed him breathing through an oxygen mask. Later, there were reports he was taken into intensive care, but Libyan officials denied the reports.
Al-Megrahi was the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground.
He was brought out Wednesday for a visit by 150 members of the South Africa-based Pan African Parliament, the largely symbolic body of the African Union. Some delivered speeches congratulating al-Megrahi on his release. Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi later held a separate meeting with the parliamentarians.
"I can't prove that he (al-Megrahi) is guilty or innocent, but I sympathize with his health condition," said Idriss Ndele Moussa, chairperson of the Pan African Parliament.
Libyan lawmaker Mohammed Jibril told reporters that the Africans' visit with al-Megrahi was intended to mirror Europe's treatment of a group of Bulgarian nurses that Libya freed in 2007 after jailing them for eight years on charges they intentionally infected Libyan children with the HIV virus. The five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor jailed with them denied the charges.
Jibril said the nurses visited the European parliament after their release and were given a warm welcome by the Bulgarian president, who pardoned them. Libya said then that the medics should have gone to a Bulgarian prison.