Megrahi death a relief for Libyans


FOR MANY Libyans the death yesterday of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the only person convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, is a relief and represents the removal of an embarrassment.

He was a reminder of the past for them, a memento of the crimes of their hated former leader, Col Muammar Gadafy. They would rather forget the hero’s welcome Megrahi received on his release by Scottish authorities.

Following Gadafy’s overthrow, al-Megrahi and his immediate family kept a low profile. That was partly by choice and partly forced on them – even elders of their tribe, the Megraha, were keen to keep their distance.

Holed up with the ailing bomber in a luxury villa in central Tripoli lavished on them by Gadafy after al-Megrahi’s release, they were fearful for the future.

Megrahi worried he would be treated badly by the rebels. In the event he was not. The family was concerned also that he might be returned to jail in Britain or sent to the United States for trial. But Libyan rebel leaders dismissed the idea of extraditing him.

However, the dying Libyan secret service agent came under pressure from the new authorities to reveal information that would help them mount cases against senior Gadafy regime figures, and this would likely have increased once the transitional government was replaced by a more permanent one later this summer.

One of the chief targets of the government is Gadafy’s spy chief and Megrahi’s cousin, Abdullah al-Senussi. He has been under arrest in Mauritania since March.

Last month, Megrahi’s son said his father had been rushed to hospital for blood transfusions. His brother Abdulhakim announced Megrahi’s death at 1pm local time yesterday.