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August 15, 2009

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Lockerbie bombing: Libyan drops plea

A FORMER Libyan agent jailed for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing has asked to end his second appeal against his conviction, his lawyer said yesterday.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, 57, who is dying of prostate cancer, must drop his appeal to be considered for repatriation under a prisoner transfer agreement signed by Britain and Libya.

Media reports this week said Scottish ministers were planning to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, a move strongly opposed the US government and many US relatives of those killed in the attack on the Pan Am plane.

"His condition has taken a significant turn for the worse in recent weeks," Megrahi's lawyer Tony Kelly said. "He applied to the High Court of Justiciary to abandon his appeal."

Megrahi, who lost his first appeal in 2002, made a separate application to the Scottish authorities in July to be released due to his severe illness, Kelly added.

The court in Edinburgh will meet on Tuesday to consider the request to drop the appeal, a spokeswoman said.

A Scottish government spokeswoman said the Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill would make the final decision on whether to free Megrahi.

Megrahi was convicted under Scottish law at a trial in the Netherlands of blowing up a Boeing 747 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie as it flew from London to New York.

He was sentenced to 27 years in prison. The bomb killed all 259 people on board, including 189 Americans, and 11 on the ground.

The US State Department said Megrahi should spend the rest of his life in jail, a view shared by many American relatives of those killed.


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