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Wed, Aug 31, 2011

Libyan Rebels Won't Extradite Al-Megrahi

'It Was Gadhafi Who Handed Over Libyan Citizens'

Any thoughts that the new government being set up by Libyan rebels will work better with the west are fading. Last week, the rebels announced their new constitution will be based on the principles of Sharia law, a disappointment to those who had hoped for a secular regime. On Sunday, the transitional government's justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, announced that the new regime will not extradite Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer who was found guilty of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

In 2009, the government of Scotland, where al-Megrahi was imprisoned, claimed his death from prostate cancer was imminent, and released him after only eight years of his life sentence. Family members of some victims were outraged at what they saw as a political decision to sooth relations with a major potential oil supplier. When he arrived back in Tripoli, a waiting throng gave al-Megrahi a hero's welcome, and he met with Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.

The Associated Press reports the two US senators from New York last week asked the Libyan national transitional government to hold al-Megrahi fully accountable for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103, which killed 270 people. Senator Charles Schumer noted, "A new Libya can send a strong statement to the world by declaring it will no longer be a haven for this convicted terrorist."

But al-Alagi replied that Schumer's statement had "no meaning" because Mr. Megrahi had already been tried and convicted. He added, "We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was Gadhafi who handed over Libyan citizens."

But he appeared to soften his tone in comments Monday, noting the decision to release al-Megrahi was made by a sovereign government that had not requested his return. He deferred further action until after a new Libyan government is in place. In the meantime, al-Megrahi is reported to be slipping in and out of consciousness, and near death.

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