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Scotland court allows withdrawal of Lockerbie bomber appeal

[JURIST] The Scottish High Court of the Judiciary [official website] on Tuesday accepted a request from convicted Pan Am Flight 103 [BBC backgrounder] bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi [BBC profile] to withdraw a pending appeal to his 2001 conviction. The court's decision to drop the appeal removes an impediment to Megrahi's petition to serve the remainder of his sentence in his native Libya, which could not be granted while legal actions are pending. Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini [official profile] must now decide whether to drop an appeal of Megrahi's 27-year sentence, which the government sees as too lenient. Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill [official profile] is considering whether to release or transfer [BBC report] Megrahi on "compassionate grounds" in light of his recently diagnosed terminal prostate cancer. On Monday, seven US Senators including Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) [official websites], sent a letter to MacAskill urging [Politics Daily report] him not to agree to Megrahi's release or transfer, joining last week's criticism [transcript] from US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton [official website].

In November, the High Court denied [JURIST report] Megrahi's request to be released on bail during the appeals process. Lawyers for al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, were denied access in March 2008 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 made its final compensation payment [JURIST report] to a US fund for victims' families in November 2008 after agreeing to accept responsibility [US DOS press release] for the 1988 airline bombing that killed all 259 on board [victims website], including 180 Americans.

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