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Libyan bomber begins life sentence

Al-Megrahi
Al-Megrahi looked dazed after hearing the ruling  


GLASGOW, Scotland -- The Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is beginning his life sentence in a Scottish jail after losing an appeal.

Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, 49, was taken by helicopter to Glasgow's Barlinnie Prison from the Netherlands following the court's decision on Thursday.

He was transported with armed guards in a civilian helicopter that landed within the grounds of the prison at 1.15am GMT on Friday.

Tom Fox, head of communications for the Scottish Prison Service, said: "A long-standing arrangement was made with the Dutch government that the prisoner would be transported from Camp Zeist as quickly as practically possible after the conclusion of the appeal process.

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"This commitment was honoured and the prisoner arrived in Scotland at 1.15am this morning. The prisoner was escorted from Camp Zeist by Scottish prison officers supported by police officers."

Al-Megrahi will serve the rest of his sentence, which carries a minimum term of 20 years, after a panel of five appeal judges in the Scottish Court at Camp Zeist ruled that he was responsible for the biggest mass murder in British history.

The hearing rejected claims by his defence team that the conviction in January 2001 had been a miscarriage of justice.

The Scottish Prison Service said Al-Megrahi would be treated like an other inmate and would be required to work five days a week.

He will have a television in his cell and be allowed to buy books and newspapers. He is likely to get just one hour a day for exercise and eat the same prison food as everyone else.

His wife, who lives in Libya, will be allowed to visit for at least 30 minutes a week. He will not be eligible for parole until at least 2019.

Barlinnie is one of Scotland's toughest jail and was built in 1880.

An official report in 1997 described it as a "national disgrace." A return visit two years later praised efforts to improve conditions but said it still had some way to go.

"Dickensian conditions such as these have no place in a modern penal system," one Scottish parliamentarian commented on the prison inspector's 1997 report.

Barlinnie in Glasgow is one of the UK's toughest prisons
Barlinnie in Glasgow is one of the UK's toughest prisons  

"We cannot detain people in overcrowded, spartan conditions with little to distract them and then turn round and complain when there is a problem," she added.

Between 1996 and 1998 at least eight inmates committed suicide at Barlinnie, which houses one-fifth of Scotland's prison population.

The quashing of Al-Megrahi's appeal brought to an end a legal process which lasted nearly two years and cost 75 million.

The families of some of the 270 people who died when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie on December 21 1988 were present for the verdict.

"None of the grounds of appeal is well founded," said the presiding judge, Lord Cullen. "The appeal will accordingly be refused."

A shout of "Yes" went out from someone in the public gallery when the judges' decision was announced and there was the sound of one or two people applauding at the rear of the gallery.

British and American relatives in the front rows of the public gallery shook each others hands.

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he hoped the decision would bring some "solace and comfort" to the families.

In Washington, the American government said Libya now had to pay compensation to the Lockerbie victims.

U.S. President George W. Bush's spokesman, Ari Fleischer, said the U.S. now expected Libya to acknowledge its role in the bombing to pave the way for normalised relations between the two nations.

But he said the case still remained open and if new information emerged on other potential suspects, it would be investigated.

Speaking at the White House, Fleischer said: "We reiterate the need for the government of Libya to move quickly to satisfy its remaining obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions related to the bombing of PanAm flight 103.

"The completion of the appeal does not end United States sanctions against Libya but should spur Libya to take quick action to fully comply with the requirements of the United Nations Security Council."

He added: "This decision affirming the conviction of a Libyan agent for the bombing of PanAm flight 103 represents a vindication of efforts by successive United States administrations.

"It also underlines the unshakeable determination of the United States not to forget but to hold terrorists accountable for their acts."



 
 
 
 






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