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Published: Thursday June 5, 2014 MYT 11:10:05 PM
Updated: Thursday June 5, 2014 MYT 11:10:05 PM

Family of convicted Lockerbie bomber launches legal bid to clear his name

LONDON (Reuters) - Relatives of the late Libyan intelligence officer convicted over the 1988 Lockerbie airline bombing have launched a bid to clear his name, their lawyer said on Thursday.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was the only person ever convicted over the attack on Pan Am flight 103 in which 270 people died.

His family say they have fresh evidence about the facts of the case and will renew claims that he was pressured by the British and Scottish governments into dropping an earlier appeal against his conviction.

Megrahi was jailed for life by a Scottish court sitting in the Netherlands after being found guilty of murder in 2001, but he was released by Scotland's government on compassionate grounds eight years later after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He died in Libya in 2012.

He had previously abandoned an appeal in the Scottish High Court in 2009 and ministers in both Edinburgh and London have always denied rumours that he did so as part of a deal for his release.

Scottish lawyer Aamer Anwar, representing the family - who have asked not be named because of the volatile situation in Libya - told Reuters those denials were untrue. He said Megrahi's dying wish was for his name to be cleared.

"To date both the British government and Scottish government have claimed that they played no role in pressuring Mr Megrahi into dropping his appeal as a condition of his immediate release," he said.

"However the evidence submitted ... today claims that this is fundamentally untrue. There is a huge cloud that has hung over this case ... that the truth has never been revealed," he added.

CHRISTMAS FLIGHT

Most of the victims of the explosion over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland were Americans on their way home from Europe for Christmas.

Eleven people died on the ground as the New York-bound jet plunged from the sky after a bomb exploded in its hold some 40 minutes after leaving London's Heathrow airport.

The appeal against Megrahi's conviction has been submitted to the Scottish Criminal Case Review Commission (SCCRC) by his family and a small group of the victims' relatives who do not believe he was involved.

They will claim that the bomb timer prosecutors said was used in the attack could not have been involved and that the bomb itself did not come from a feeder flight into Heathrow from Frankfurt, as was alleged at the original trial.

The SCCRC confirmed on Thursday that it had received the appeal and that the case would be sent to the Scottish Court of Appeal if it appeared that a miscarriage of justice may have taken place.

The Scottish government on Thursday repeated its denial that ministers had influenced Megrahi's decision to drop his appeal in 2009.

"That was entirely a matter for him and his legal team,” said a Scottish government spokesperson.

(editing by Stephen Addison)

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