Britain Warns Libya Against Lockerbie Bomber ‘celebrations’

LONDON – The British government has urged Libya not to organize any official celebrations to mark the first anniversary of the release from jail of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber.

“Any celebration of Megrahi’s release will be tasteless, offensive and deeply insensitive to the victims’ families. We have made our concerns clear to the Libyan government,” a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said.

Al-Megrahi is the only man ever to be convicted of the bombing of a Pan Am airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December, 1988, in which 270 people died. Most of the dead were US citizens.

Al-Megrahi has always denied that he was responsible. After being sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court in 2001, he was freed by the Scottish government on August 20, 2009.

The authorities ruled that al-Megrahi, who suffers from prostate cancer, should be freed on compassionate grounds as medical evidence showed he had only three months to live.

He was given an official welcome amid jubilant celebrations in Tripoli after his return. The case has sparked strong tensions between London and Washington, which has condemned the release and insisted that business interests had played a role.

The new Conservative-led British government, which came to power in May, has described al-Megrahi’s release as a “mistake.”

“Particularly on this anniversary we understand the continuing anguish that al-Megrahi’s release has caused his victims, both in the UK and the US,” the spokeswoman said.