Lockerbie bomber has only days left to live, says Gadaffi
The Lockerbie bomber is in a coma and may have only days to live, according to Colonel Muammar Gadaffi.
The health of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has "deteriorated badly", according to the Libyan dictator.
Megrahi was given three months to live when he was released from prison in Scotland in August last year on compassionate grounds, and flown home to Libya.
At the time Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, said Megrahi faced "a sentence imposed by a higher power".
The fact that he is still alive 15 months later has added weight to American anger that he was released.
Col Gadaffi was speaking in Tripoli to back Megrahi's family, who have said they will sue the Scottish authorities for neglecting Megrahi's health in prison. He was quoted by the state news agency JANA as saying that Megrahi's health had "deteriorated badly".
John Lamont, a Conservative MSP, has condemned suggestions that Megrahi's health was neglected by the prison authorities. He said: "Every time the Lockerbie bomber's name is raised, Scotland looks more and more foolish to the rest of the world. We said at the time, a year and a quarter ago, that he should not have been released and we stand by that call."
However, a spokeswoman for East Renfrewshire Council whose officials speak regularly with Megrahi as part of parole conditions, dismissed the claims. "Media speculation regarding Mr Megrahi is just that, and rumours are unfounded," she said. "We continue to be in contact with Mr Megrahi regularly and whenever we need to be for the purposes of supervision."
Other reports quoted members of the Megrahi family as claiming that he had been in a coma since last week and was not expected to survive long.
One member of the clan suggested it was unlikely he would be alive on December 21, the anniversary of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people.
"He is on life support and has been for some days. Many people have been waiting for him to die," the source said. "That day is coming very soon."
Whitehall officials acknowledge that commercial interests -- as well the desire to deepen anti-terrorism co-operation -- resulted in the adoption of the UK-Libyan prisoner transfer agreement, which first raised the prospect of Megrahi's release.
But they have always stressed that the decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds was made independently of that deal, and that, in any case, officials in the Scottish parliament had the final say on whether to set him free.
Sources in the Scottish Executive told reporters it turned down an offer from Switzerland to have Megrahi transferred there as a compromise solution. (© Daily Telegraph, London)