Lockerbie Bomber Eligible For Parole In 27 Years

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:14 PM EDT

London ( - A Libyan man convicted of killing 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing was ordered by a court in Scotland on Monday to serve at least 27 years of a life sentence in prison.

The minimum was increased from a recommendation of at least 20 years in prison issued following the trial of Abdelbaset al Megrahi, but relatives of some of the victims of the bombing have expressed anger that a longer term was not imposed.

Al Megrahi was found guilty of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, an attack that killed all 259 on board the plane and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.

A decade-long quest to bring the bombers to justice came to fruition when Libya handed over al Megrahi, a former Libyan secret service agent, to a special Scottish court sitting in neutral territory in the Netherlands.

In 2001, al Megrahi was found guilty while an alleged accomplice was cleared of charges. Al Megrahi was given the maximum sentence under Scottish law of life in prison, and judges recommended that he serve at least 20 years in prison.

Monday's hearing was made necessary by a change to Scottish law stipulating that criminals serving life sentences must be told exactly when they are eligible for parole.

"Quite clearly this was a wicked act carried out in the full knowledge that the plan ... would result in the slaughter of many entirely innocent persons," presiding High Court judge Lord Sutherland said.

Sutherland said the judges might have upped the minimum sentence further, but they took into account al Megrahi's age, 51, and the fact that he was serving his sentence outside of his native country.

However, some relatives of the victims of the attack expressed anger that al Megrahi will be eligible for parole at all.

"I don't get my kid back, so he should stay in prison," said Jack Flynn, an American whose son was killed in the bombing.

"(Al Megrahi) murdered him deliberately," Flynn told reporters outside of the courtroom in Glasgow.

"I would hope that he would spend the rest of his life in prison because of the number of people he deliberately killed," he said. "This was not a spur-of-the-moment decision ... he planned to murder these people over a number of years."

A spokesman for the British relatives repeated calls for government hearings into the terror attack.

"We have all to accept the verdict and the fact that the sentence is life imprisonment, although many of our group have continuing serious doubts about many aspects of the case, which we feel will only be answered by a full and independent inquiry," said David Ben-Aryeah.

Al Megrahi has continued to protest his innocence, and his British lawyer, Eddie MacKechnie, said he would continue to pursue possible avenues for appeal.

"I have no doubt that we will have the opportunity for a fresh appeal in due course," MacKechnie said.

Meanwhile, controversy has been sparked by alleged lenient treatment of al Megrahi in prison. Reports in the British press have said that the convicted terrorist has full use of a four-room suite at Glasgow's Barlinnie prison.

Earlier this month, U.S. State Department officials asked the British government for an explanation of a story in the Daily Mail that said al Megrahi has a television, computer stereo system and satellite television, along with unlimited telephone access.

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