Lockerbie bomber once again declares his innocence

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Tripoli (Libya), Aug.22 (ANI): Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the man accused of perpetrating the bombing of a Pan Am Flight 103 that claimed 270 lives in 1988 in Lockerbie, southern Scotland, has once again proclaimed his innocence.

In an interview to The Times at his house, in the Dimachk area of Tripoli, al-Megrahi who was released by the Scottish authorities earlier this week on grounds of ill health, said: " I always believed I would come back if justice prevailed."

He did not come across as bitter or angry but continued to insist on his innocence, as he has done from the day of his conviction. He abandoned his appeal, he said, not because he was guilty but to give himself the best possible chance of going home before he died.

He had applied to be freed on compassionate grounds and also to be transferred to a Libyan prison under the terms of an agreement Britain and Libya signed in April.

One of the conditions of the latter was that all legal proceedings had to be finished.

He denied reports that he had been pressured to drop the appeal by a Scottish or British government terrified that such a hearing would expose a grave miscarriage of justice, but he added: "If there is justice in the UK I would be acquitted or the verdict would be quashed because it was unsafe. There was a miscarriage of justice."

Al-Megrahi promised that before he died he would present new evidence through his Scottish lawyers that would exonerate him.

"My message to the British and Scottish communities is that I will put out the evidence and ask them to be the jury," he said. He refused to elaborate.

Asked who, then, was responsible for the deaths of 270 people who died in the Lockerbie bombing, al-Megrahi smiled. "It's a very good question but I'm not the right person to ask."

He insisted that it was not Libya and would not be drawn on suggestions that it was Syria, Iran or the Palestinians.

He said that he understood why many of the victims' relatives were angry at his release.

"They have hatred for me. It's natural to behave like this," he said, although he pointedly added that others had written to him in prison to say that they forgave him whether he was guilty or innocent.

"They believe I'm guilty which in reality I'm not. One day the truth won't be hiding as it is now. We have an Arab saying: 'The truth never dies'."

Meanwhile, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son, Saif, has claimed that al Megrahi's release was linked to trade deals between Britain and Libya.

Saif al Islam Gaddafi said that Megrahi's return was a "victory" for all Libyans.

According to The Telegraph, he made the claims in a television interview for Libyan television recorded as he accompanied Megrahi on the flight back from Scotland to Libya on Thursday.

The UK government has vehemently denied the claims.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "There is no deal. All decisions relating to Megrahi's case have been exclusively for Scottish ministers, the Crown Office in Scotland and the Scottish judicial authorities." (ANI)

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