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Scotland court denies bail for Lockerbie Pan Am 103 bomber

[JURIST] A panel of Scotland's High Court of Justiciary [official website] Friday denied bail [decision text] to convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC backgrounder]. The plane was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, killing all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans, making it the deadliest terrorist attack on Americans prior to 9/11. Eleven others on the ground were killed by debris. Al-Megrahi was recently diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, and his lawyers had sought his release on bail as he appeals his conviction. They argued that because of the severity of the illness, he should be released to seek treatment. The High Court recognized the impact his continued incarceration might have on his condition, but said that he was currently not in severe pain, and that his health concerns must be weighed against the severity of the crime of which he has been convicted:

The critical question, as the court sees it, is, against the background of the atrocity of which the applicant stands convicted, whether the applicant's health, present and prospective, is such that the Court should on compassionate grounds now admit him to bail. On balance the Court is not persuaded, on the information before it, that it should. While the disease from which the appellant suffers is incurable and may cause his death, he is not at present suffering material pain or disability. The full services of the National Health Service are available to him, notwithstanding he is in custody. There is, it appears, no immediate prospect of serious deterioration in his condition... While recognising [sic] that the psychological burden of knowledge of an incurable fatal disease may be easier to bear in a family environment than in custody, the Court, having regard to the grave nature of the conviction and taking into account the fact that a reference has been made and the fact that the appeal process is likely to be protracted, is not persuaded that the stage has been reached when early release is appropriate.
The court went on to say that it may reconsider its decision if al-Megrahi's condition worsens. AP has more. The Telegraph has additional coverage.

Lawyers for al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March to a "missing document," that they had sought [JURIST reports] in appealing his conviction. The Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) [official website] granted an appeal [JURIST report] in al-Megrahi's case in June 2007 and referred it the High Court after the commission identified six grounds [press release, PDF] for a possible "miscarriage of justice" in his trial and conviction. In 2003, Libya agreed to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 bombing, and earlier this month made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families.

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