Friday 04 June 2010 | Libya feed

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Lockerbie bomber returns to hero's welcome and Scottish flag waving in Libya

The Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi returned home to Libya on Thursday to cheers and patriotic music after being freed on compassionate grounds.

 

Thousands of young people waving Libyan and Scottish flags greeted the aircraft carrying Megrahi, who has terminal prostate cancer and is believed to have just weeks to live, as it landed in Tripoli amid heavy security.

Loudspeakers pumped out patriotic songs ahead of a celebration later in the heart of the Libyan capital that Megrahi was expected to attend, said a source in the delegation that accompanied him from Scotland.

Megrahi, the only person found guilty of blowing up a US Boeing 747 airliner in 1988 and killing 270 people, said earlier he was "very relieved" to be freed, but described his original conviction as a "disgrace".

In a statement issued by his lawyer after his departure, Megrahi said he was innocent of the bombing, but also thanked the people of Scotland for setting him free.

US President Barack Obama called his release a "mistake" and said Megrahi should be placed under house arrest in Libya.

"We have been in contact with the Scottish government, indicating that we objected to this, and we thought it was a mistake," Mr Obama said. Many of the victims on Pan Am Flight 103 were American.

The president added that "we're now in contact with the Libyan government and want to make sure that if, in fact, this transfer has taken place, that he's not welcomed back in some way, but instead, should be under house arrest".

But in Tripoli, despite the fact that state media had not announced his return, Megrahi was greeted by Libyans wearing T-shirts bearing his face.

Many carried banners with the name of Libya's National Youth Association, which is close to Saif al Islam, one of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's sons.

Megrahi got into a car bound for Tripoli's landmark Green Square, where he was expected to appear before thousands of people gathered to mark Libyan Youth Day.

 
 
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