Megrahi says his Lockerbie role exaggerated
TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people, said his role in the attack had been exaggerated and the truth about what really happened would emerge soon.
Al-Megrahi, released from a Scottish prison two years ago because he was suffering from terminal cancer, spoke to Reuters from a bed at his home in Tripoli. Looking frail and his breathing labored, he said he had only a few months, at most, left to live.
“The facts (about the Lockerbie bombing) will become clear one day and hopefully in the near future. In a few months from now, you will see new facts that will be announced,” he told Reuters Television over the pinging of medical monitors around his bed.
“The West exaggerated my name. Please leave me alone. I only have a few more days, weeks or months.”
Al-Megrahi was found guilty of bombing Pan Am flight 103 while it was en route from London to New York on December 21, 1988. All 259 people aboard the plane were killed and 11 others on the ground in Lockerbie also died from falling wreckage.
Al-Megrahi, who had served as an intelligence agent during the rule of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, denied any role in suspected human rights abuses under Gaddafi’s administration.
“All my work was administrative. I never harmed Libyans,” he said.” I didn’t harm anyone. I’ve never harmed anyone in my life.”
He called the trial that led to his conviction a farce. The proceedings were held in a Dutch court under Scottish jurisdiction.
“Camp Zeist Court is the smallest place on earth that contains the largest number of liars. I suffered from the liars at Camp Zeist Court more than you can imagine,” he said.
Al-Megrahi lay propped at a slight angle in a hospital-style bed. An oxygen tank stood nearby, but he did not use an oxygen mask during the interview. Members of his family were in the room with him.
Unshaven, he wore a checked shirt and had a white headdress wrapped loosely around his head.
Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) said last week it would work with the Scottish government over the possible involvement of others in the 1988 bombing, an attack the country’s new rulers are eager to distance themselves from.
The NTC had previously called the case closed and said any probe would not involve Megrahi, who had been serving a life sentence in Scotland prior to his release. NTC head Mustafa Abdel Jalil has previously claimed to have evidence of Gaddafi’s involvement in the bombing.
A second defendant, Al-Amin Khalifa Fhimah, was cleared of murder charges in the proceedings.
In his interview, al-Megrahi said that Jim Swire, the father of one of the victims of the bombing who has disputed the court’s findings, maintained contact with him.
“The day before yesterday, Dr. Swire sent me an email to tell me that there is a new medicine. He is trying to help me. He told me how to get this medicine.”
He said he had little knowledge of the circumstances surrounding Gaddafi’s overthrow and that the armed groups which toppled Gaddafi had invaded his home and mistreated him.
“I don’t know anything about February 17th…that’s not a question for a sick person,” he said, using the term by which many Libyans describe the anti-Gaddafi rebellion. “I hear airplanes overhead every day,” he said, referring to NATO planes which have bombed sites in Libya.
“My house has been violated. They smashed the main door and stole my cars.”
He said he was being denied medical treatment which he said was stipulated in the deal that saw him returned from Scotland to Libya.
“I was treated badly when I came back. During the latest incidents, especially in the last month, I have a shortage of all my medicines. My doctor tells me to look for medicine like anyone else despite the agreement between us and Britain,” he said. “I have four pills left (of one of the medications).”
“I want to die in my house, among my family. I hope to God that I will see my country united, with no fighting or war. I hope the bloodshed will stop in Libya. I wish all the best for my country.”
Lockerbie resident Sarah Lawson, 87, who still lives in Sherwood Crescent where debris from the plane demolished houses and killed 11 residents, questioned whether the truth about the bombing would ever emerge.
“I don’t think he did it…somebody else did it. Maybe he had a job to do and he had to do it otherwise it would’ve cost him his life,” she told Reuters by telephone after the interview with Megrahi.
Megrahi’s release was conditional on his agreement to make himself available to talk by telephone or video link with officials from the criminal justice department of East Renfrewshire, an area of Scotland where Megrahi’s family lived while he was imprisoned.
“Our criminal justice service monitor Mr Megrahi based on the license that was issued at the time of his release,” a spokesman for East Renfrewshire council said.
“We continue to monitor him regularly and he has not breached any of the conditions imposed on him as part of that license,” he said.
The British Foreign Office and Scottish government had no immediate comment.
(Additional reporting by Avril Ormsby and Adrian Croft in London; Writing by Joseph Logan; Editing by Christian Lowe and)
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