By Dominique Soguel
By Dominique Soguel
TRIPOLI, May 21, 2012 (AFP)
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi, the only person convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 270 people, is to be buried Monday after he died of cancer protesting his innocence to the end.
“His pain is over now — he is with god,” said Mohammed al-Megrahi, insisting that his brother died an innocent man.
“There never was exact proof,” he stressed.
Relatives said the funeral would be held on Monday afternoon.
Megrahi was found guilty of blowing up Pan Am flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988, which killed all 259 people on board along with 11 people on the ground.
He died on Sunday, almost three years after the Scottish government freed him from jail on compassionate grounds following his prostate cancer diagnosis.
Megrahi’s death has revived the the debate on whether the initial verdict was flawed and prompted sharply contrasting reactions on both sides of the Atlantic.
On Monday, Britain’s Independent newspaper cast doubts on the conviction by a Scottish court siting in the Netherlands in 2001 and called for an official probe.
“Megrahi’s death is no reason to stop trying to get to the truth,” said the left-leaning newspaper’s editorial.
“With so many loose ends remaining and so many questions about the original trial unresolved, the Scottish government should agree to a public inquiry into the tragedy,” it said.
But British Prime Minister David Cameron on Sunday flatly rejected calls for an inquiry into the conviction and said that the Libyan should never have been released from prison.
“There was a proper process, a proper court proceeding and all the rest of it. We have to give people the chance to mourn those that were lost,” he said.
The US government, which was outraged by Scotland’s decision to free the former Libyan airline security chief, said his death concluded “an unfortunate chapter.”
“We will continue working with our new partners in Libya toward a full accounting of (Moamer) Kadhafi’s horrific acts,” said US National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor.
Megrahi had always maintained his innocence, arguing that US agencies “led the way” in securing his conviction.
His brother Abdelhakim defended him on Sunday, saying he was the “scapegoat” of Kadhafi’s regime, toppled in a popular uprising last year.
“He has died and has left us with the feeling of injustice,” he told AFP.
“Everyone knows that the Kadhafi regime blamed its mistakes on others.”
Some have suggested the decision to allow Megrahi to return to Libya was taken to smooth the way for lucrative oil deals struck by British firms.
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond argued that Megrahi’s death vindicated his administration.
His death “puts to rest some of the conspiracy theories which have attempted to suggest that his illness was somehow manufactured,” Salmond said.
The fact that Megrahi survived much longer than the doctors had estimated provoked indignation in Britain and the United States.
The convict had been greeted as a hero on his return to Kadhafi’s Libya, after having served eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence for his role in the Lockerbie bombing.
Several relatives of US citizens killed in the Lockerbie bombing said they were pleased that Megrahi had died.
“He deserved to die,” said Susan Cohen, whose daughter Theodora was one of the victims.
“He was a mass murderer. I feel no pity around him. He got to die with his family around him. My daughter, at age 20, died a brutal, horrible death,” she told CNN.
But the father of one of the victims of the Lockerbie bombing, who has long believed Megrahi was innocent, said it was a sad day.
“It is a sad time, I think. I have been satisfied for some years that this man was nothing to do with the murder of my daughter,” Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was killed in the attack, told BBC TV.
“I think Scotland has a big question to answer as to why his verdict hasn’t long since been reviewed.”
In December, Megrahi told several British newspapers in what was billed as a “final interview” that a book being written by investigative journalist John Ashton would clear his name.
“I am an innocent man,” he told the papers, including The Times and the Daily Mail.
“I am about to die and I ask now to be left in peace with my family,” he said.