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Scotland defends release of Lockerbie bomber

Scottish officials on Saturday defended the decision to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile] on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with cancer, even though he is still alive two years later. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond [official profile] said al Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds alone and "[w]hether people support or oppose the decision, it was made following the due process of Scots law, we stand by it, and al Megrahi is dying of terminal prostate cancer." Al Megrahi was convicted of murdering 270 people in 2001 after blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988. The defense of al Megrahi's release drew the ire of opposition Scottish Labour Party [official website] leader Iain Gray who called for Salmond to apologize to the families of victims [Scottish Labour Party report]. Gray stated it is an "insult to the victims that he refuses still to publish all the medical evidence the release was based on. If the decision was made for humanitarian reasons, he should do the humane thing and apologise for the pain caused to the relatives."

Last August, Scottish Labour Party officials called for the publication of all medical evidence related to the release [JURIST report] of al-Megrahi. The demand came one year after al Megrahi was released [JURIST report] from prison on compassionate grounds because doctors predicted he only had three months to live. Despite the publication of a report leading to the decision, the Labour party said that all medical opinions leading to the decision and the names of the doctors who authored them should also be released [BBC report]. Responding to criticism of his decision to release al Megrahi, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill [official website] claimed he acted in good faith when authorizing the release, denying that there was an arrangement [Telegraph report] for al Megrahi to drop his appeal in return for his release. Al Megrahi returned to his native Libya, where he is still living, and experts have suggested that he could continue living for several more years [AP report]. Al Megrahi's release was controversial, with both US officials and the Scottish Parliament [JURIST reports] condemning it. Last year, US lawmakers called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the role that oil company British Petroleum (BP) [corporate website] may have played in al Megrahi's release.

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