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UK: Mandela backs Lockerbie bomber release: Scottish official

Sun Aug 30 21:34:29 EST 2009
Sun Aug 30 11:34:29 UTC 2009

LONDON, Aug 30 AFP - Nelson Mandela has written to the Scottish government to express his support for its decision to release the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds, officials say.

The former South African president sent a letter through his Nelson Mandela Foundation welcoming Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi's release from jail earlier this month, a Scottish government spokesman said.

"Mr Mandela appreciates the decision to release Mr al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds," said the letter, written by Professor Jakes Gerwel, chairman of the Mandela Foundation.

"Mr Mandela played a central role in facilitating the handover of Mr al-Megrahi and his fellow accused to the United Nations in order for them to stand trial under Scottish Law in the Netherlands.

"His interest and involvement continued after the trial.

"The decision to release him now, and allow him to return to Libya, is one which is in line with his wishes."

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond welcomed the letter as an example of international backing for the move, which has been strongly condemned by the United States.

The majority of the 270 people who died when a Pan Am flight blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in December 1988 were American.

Megrahi is the only man convicted over the atrocity but is suffering from advanced prostate cancer and was released so he could die at home in Libya.

"We have seen today that Nelson Mandela has come out firmly in support, not just as the towering figure of humanitarian concern across the world in the last generation, but of course somebody who brokered the agreement that led to the Lockerbie trial in the first place," Salmond told the BBC.

He added: "Many people believe that you will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution."