Lockerbie Bomber Not Dying After All

It turns out that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi isn't dying after all, at least not any faster than any other human being.

Last year, the Scottish government released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the Lockerbie bombing based primarily upon evidence that al-Megrahi was dying and had less than a year to live. Now, and perhaps not surprisingly, it turns out that his medical condition is nowhere near as bad as had been represented to the Scottish Court:

The Lockerbie bomber could survive for 10 years or longer, according to a cancer specialist who last year said he would be dead within three months of his release.

Professor Karol Sikora, who assessed Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi for the Libyan authorities almost a year ago, told The Sunday Times it was “embarrassing” the bomber had outlived his three-month prognosis.

Megrahi, 58, is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a US Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, which left 270 dead.

The Scottish government provoked outrage from the United States when it released him from prison in August 2009 on compassionate grounds because he dying of metastatic prostate cancer.

In Scotland, prisoners are eligible for release on compassionate grounds if they have fewer than three months to live.

A report in the Sunday Times said Libyan authorities, keen to secure Megrahi’s release, asked several experts to put a three-month estimate on the bomber’s life but Professor Sikora was the only one to agree.

Professor Sikora, the dean of medicine at Buckingham University and medical director of CancerPartnersUK in London, was paid for his medical assessment of Megrahi at Greenock prison on July last year.

He told the newspaper: “There was always a chance he could live for 10 years, 20 years … But it’s very unusual.

“It was clear that three months was what they were aiming for. Three months was the critical point.

“On the balance of probabilities, I felt I could sort of justify [that].”

He denied he came any under pressure, but admitted: “It is embarrassing that he’s gone on for so long.”

“There was a 50 per cent chance that he would die in three months, but there was also a 50 per cent chance that he would live longer.”

This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, of course.

Within weeks after al-Megrahi was released, there were allegations that the medical evidence supporting his petition for compassionate release was questionable at best, as well as allegations of a quid pro quo deal between Libya and the U.K. involving oil and/or a trade deal. Also, given the hero’s welcome he received on his return to Libya, it’s not all surprising to hear that the Libyan Government may have been involved in cooking the books to create the facts necessary to allow the Scottish Justice Minister to approve his release.

There’s nothing that can be done about this at this point, of course, but one has to wonder if the Scots feel deceived at all about this.

FILED UNDER: Europe, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JKB says:

    If the Scots were deceived is was by the English down at Whitehall. That and the British National Health Service who presumably look after the prisoners and could therefore have offered an informed opinion absent of the cash payoff Sikora got.

  2. Idiot says:

    Scots were deceived? No it was the world that was deceived, and, yes, it was predictable. They allowed the Libyans to doctor shop and didn’t find a doctor of their own to confirm or deny the prognosis.

    Professor Sikora, the dean of medicine at Buckingham University and medical director of CancerPartnersUK in London, sold his soul.

  3. Franklin says:

    It’s never too late. We could still assassinate him to make the prognosis somewhat accurate.

  4. In re: the headline, he’s still dying, just not as quickly as advertised 😉

  5. anjin-san says:

    Nobody got an independent confirmation of his prognosis?? I would hope some pink slips are going out. His victims are, after all, still dead.

  6. Bam says:

    We’re all dying in some sense I suppose. But some of us get blown up in airplanes by evil basterds and then some of us are stupid enough to release the ones who do things like that out of a compassion that the perpetrators sorely lacked to begin with. Scotland has a very black mark on it’s record here.

  7. Raoul says:

    The medical pardon was a pretext. The evidence against him was weak. His co-conspirator was acquitted. And to be truthful, does anyone here believe beyond a reasonable doubt (I know different standard but nonetheless) that that THE key piece of evidence, the .5 centimeters long (1/4 size of a fingernail) radio transmitter chip was found on the ground after falling seven miles?

  8. Karen says:

    This isn’t the least bit suprising. The Libyians have always lied to get their way, and yet again, the world fell for it. I find it hard to believe that they would take the word of only ONE doctor? I hope that the money he recieved from Libya as a payoff was worth it. Although he’s now a marked man.
    He should be released from service at Buckingham Palace, he isn’t much of a doctor if it was only a 50/50 prognosis. But, pray tell, what nationality is this doctor? What religion is he? To whom does his loyalties lie? It’s obvious that it isn’t with the free world.

  9. El Brucio says:

    I don’t know whether he was guilty or not, but I don’t think there was any funny business going on with his medical file.

    Prisons are generally hopeless places with barely adequate services that try to walk a line between rehabilitation and punishment. I can’t imagine he was getting the best food or medical care during his stay, and the outlook for his survival reflected this.

    If he received a hero’s welcome in Libya, then it’s highly likely that he has benefactors there willing to ensure he receives the highest levels of care, which can dramatically change a prognosis. Probably even more of an incentive, he now has his freedom, and hope can be a powerful factor in surviving disease.

  10. And he deserved hope?

  11. El Brucio says:

    I haven’t gone over the court proceedings that put him in prison in the first place so I have no idea whether he deserves hope or not, but I certainly can see it playing a role in his health.