Two years after he was released on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government and given three months to live, it seems that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, is close to death. CNN's international correspondent Nic Robertson found Megrahi in a coma at his family's palatial villa in Tripoli, "surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip."
In recent days there have been calls for Megrahi's extradition but Robertson's account of a man "near death's door" ("much iller, much sicker ... just a shell of the man he was") suggests there is little prospect of him returning to jail in Britain or, as some have suggested, to face trial in the US. In any case, the National Transitional Council has consistently maintained that it will not hand over a Libyan citizen to the west, insisting that Megrahi has been judged once and will not be "judged again". Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, has since indicated that the government will not challenge this decision. Speaking on Radio 5 this morning, he said: "In the case of al-Megrahi, he has been through a legal process and, as we have found out overnight, his life does appear to be drawing to a close."
However, he indicated, that the government would seek the extradition of Yvonne Fletcher's alleged killer, Abdulmagid Salah Almeri. He remarked: "In the case of the assassin of Yvonne Fletcher, there has been no legal process, and I think a new regime in Tripoli, the NTC delivering both a new constitution and credible elections within the eight month period they have set themselves, there's plenty of room for discussion about a situation where there hasn't been any legal process at all so far."
Megrahi's conviction is, of course, widely disputed, a fact noted this morning by some of the relatives of the victims of the bombing. For instance, Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter was killed in the blast, spoke of a "tissue of lies which led to a politically useful outcome". At the very least, it is absurd that Megrahi is the only person who has been convicted of involvement in the bombing. But it appears increasingly likely that he will take the truth with him to the grave.