Lockerbie victim's father meets freed bomber al-Megrahi

Lockerbie victim's father meets freed bomber al-Megrahi

The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing "remains a sick man" but was in better shape than expected when one of the victim's fathers visited him in Tripoli, dpa reported.

Jim Swire, whose daughter, Flora, 24, was on the ill-fated Pan Am aircraft when it was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, held a one-hour meeting with Abdel Baset al-Megrahi in Libya on Tuesday, The Sunday Times of Malta reported.

It was the first time that the Scottish doctor had met al-Megrahi, following his controversial release from a Scottish prison in August 2009.

The authorities ruled that al-Megrahi, who suffers from prostate cancer, should be freed on compassionate grounds as medical evidence showed he had only three months to live. When he returned to Tripoli, al-Megrahi was given an official welcome amid jubilant celebrations, sparking tensions between London and Washington.

The convicted man has kept a very low profile since his release, amid media speculation about his health and whereabouts.

Swire, who has always maintained the Libyan was wrongly convicted of the crime which killed 270 people, was quick to quash media claims that the so-called "Lockerbie bomber" was not really a dying man.

"Abdel Baset remains a sick man but he is in better shape than I had dared to hope. His mind is perfectly clear. I attribute this to the love and care of his family and community, and to some extent also to the excellent medical care he seems to be receiving. This is a message of great cheer for all of us men, many of whom will sooner or later be victims of prostate cancer," Swire told Malta's main newspaper in an interview.

He said he decided to visit Tripoli in solidarity with the Libyan.

"We met as brother members of the human race and seekers of a common goal: the re-examination of the available evidence which led to a verdict we believe was reached under political pressure rather than the rules of justice," Swire said.

He said al-Megrahi does not want any further dealings with the media, believing he can do no more now that his appeal has been withdrawn. Still, the Libyan maintained his innocence and his wish to see the verdict against him overturned.

"That task now falls upon Scotland, and those who believe, like me, that the verdict was a miscarriage of justice," Swire, 74, said.

During the meeting in Tripoli both al-Megrahi and Swire pointed fingers at Maltese shop-owner Tony Gauci, who claimed he had identified the Libyan as the man who had bought clothes from him that were later found wrapped around the bomb. His testimony was key to the decision that held the Libyan responsible for the explosion.

Swire told The Sunday Times of Malta: "We felt that if Abdel Baset and I were standing at the gates of heaven, and Gauci applied for entry he would be asked why he had betrayed his brother human being and his only answer would have to be 'for the money'."

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