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Lockerbie bomber to find out prison term.

Byline: By Jamie Diffley

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi is set to return to court today to be told how long he will serve behind bars.

The convicted mass murderer and former Libyan intelligence officer will appear at the High Court in Glasgow - just a short journey from Barlinnie Prison.

The hearing is due to the European Convention on Human Rights being incorporated into Scottish law in 2001, nine months after Al Megrahi was sentenced.

The legal change meant all existing and future lifers in Scotland must be told the length of the punishment part of their sentences.

At the brief court appearance, judges will tell the 51-year-old what part of his life term will count as the 'punishment part' of his sentence - in effect, what period he must serve before he can even be considered for parole.

Al Megrahi killed 270 people in the Lockerbie bombing including 29-year-old Alistair Berkley. His parents Barrie and Jean, of Sandhoe, near Hexham, run a support group for families of other British victims and have been campaigning for answers over who was responsible.

It is thought relatives of the victims from around the world will be in court to hear the judgement.

Al Megrahi arrived at Barlinnie in March last year after losing his appeal against conviction for the bombing in December 1988 - the biggest single act of mass murder in British history.

He was jailed for life in 2001 when the three judges unanimously found him guilty of the attack.

His co-accused Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah was found not guilty of the bombing by the judges, appointed in place of a jury, after a nine-month trial.

They sentenced Al Megrahi to life imprisonment, recommending a minimum period of 20 years before he can be considered for parole.

The trial followed a 12-year inquiry into the bombing of New York-bound Flight Pan Am 103, which was blown out of the skies on December 21, 1988.

All 259 men, women and children on board died, together with 11 residents of Lockerbie, who were killed when aircraft wreckage rained down, causing a huge fireball which devastated parts of the town.

Some bodies were never found.

Al Megrahi, who was head of security at Libyan Arab Airlines, appealed following his conviction but this was rejected last year and he was moved to Barlinnie.

In May, it was reported that the Libyan Government had agreed to pay the families of the victims of the atrocity pounds 7 million each.

Two months ago he applied to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC) for a review of his sentence and conviction.

The commission is still considering Al Megrahi's application.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 24, 2003
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