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Libya leader alleged to have ordered Lockerbie bombing

Former Libyan Justice Minister Mustafa Abel-Jalil on Wednesday alleged that Muammar Gaddafi [BBC report] ordered [Expressen report, in Swedish] the 1988 Lockerbie [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] bombing, according to Swedish newspaper Expressen [website, in Swedish]. During the 40-minute interview, Abel-Jalil, who resigned [AP report] earlier this week in opposition of the country's violent response to protesters [JURIST report], claimed to have evidence that Gaddafi gave direct orders to Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to conduct the bombing. Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the Pan Am bombing and sentenced to 27 years in prison, which he subsequently appealed. Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official, was released from custody [JURIST report] in August 2009 on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and subsequently returned to his native Libya. Libyan officials began lobbying for Megrahi's release after his diagnosis in September 2008, stating that allowing Megrahi to die in Scottish custody would be the equivalent of a death sentence. Libyan officials threatened "severe ramifications to UK interests" if Megrahi was not released. According to Abel-Jalil, Gaddafi did everything in his power to have Megrahi released and returned from Scotland, while concealing his own involvement.

Earlier this month, the UK's top civil servant reported [JURIST report] that the previous administration "[did] all it could" to facilitate a Libyan appeal to allow for the release of Megrahi from a Scottish prison, but that the decision-making power was solely within the province of the Scottish Government. Last August, the Obama administration urged Libyan authorities to return Megrahi to a Scottish prison [JURIST report] to serve the remainder of his sentence. Also in August, the opposition Scottish Labour Party [party website] called for the publication of all medical evidence [JURIST report] related to Megrahi's release. In July, US lawmakers called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the role that British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website; JURIST news archive], which was engaged in contract negotiations to explore drilling in Libya and was suffering "significant financial loss" while these contracts remained unsigned, may have played in Megrahi's release. Megrahi's release was controversial, with both US officials and the Scottish Parliament [JURIST reports] condemning it. Libya made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility for the 1988 airline bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed all 259 on board [memorial website] and 11 others, including 180 Americans.

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