Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Al Megrahi will today mark the second anniversary of his release from prison in a safe house with his family.
Libya’s under-fire regime has called for any celebrations to remain ‘low key’.
Megrahi was filmed last month by Libyan state television appearing at a rally. Despite the fact he looked ill in a wheelchair, the 59-year-old’s surprise appearance was a huge propaganda coup.
This week the Scottish government insisted it has been ‘vindicated’ in it’s controversial decision to release Megrahi from jail on compassionate grounds.
The former intelligence officer was convicted in 2001 of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, which killed 270.
He was freed from a life sentence on compassionate grounds in 2009 after doctors said he was suffering with terminal prostate cancer and had only three months to live.
However it emerged yesterday a revolutionary cancer treatment developed in London, but not yet available in the UK, has enabled him to survive.
Megrahi has been taking Abiraterone, the hormone-based therapy drug discovered by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
A study at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London in 2007 found it dramatically improved the condition of up to 70 per of prostate cancer patients.
But despite pharmaceutical firm Johnson and Johnson preparing to market the drug under the name Zytiga, its cost is estimated at a prohibitive £3,000 a month.
‘Brother Al-Megrahi has received the very best treatment, including Abiraterone,’ revealed a medical source.
Consultant urologist professor Roger Kirby, founder and director of The Prostate Centre in London, said: ‘He has long outlived the speculative three-month prognosis and it appears he may continue to do so for a while yet. I strongly suspect that this drug has been central to that.’
Last month a mission to capture the freed bomber and return him to face justice in the United States was revealed.
Under a secret deal between President Barack Obama and Libyan rebel leaders, Megrahi would have been detained by opposition troops and then handed over to U.S. special forces.
The biggest stumbling block was that nobody knew where he was – or even if he was still alive.
‘Now it is clear that he is alive and in the Tripoli area,’ said the medical source.
‘Because of this the number of guards around him is being increased, and his hideaway being made even more secure. He will remain in his safe house for the second anniversary of his release.’
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was said to be three months from death when he was freed from Greenock jail on August 20 2009.
The decision by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill sparked international condemnation from some relatives of victims and politicians, including US President Barack Obama – but also attracted high-profile support from figures such as Nelson Mandela.
Now, two years on, with Megrahi still alive in his home country, a spokesman for Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond defended the release.
Senior figures in the American, British and Scottish jurisdictions have all agreed that the decision was taken in good faith, the spokesman said.
‘Two years of extensive scrutiny, under three jurisdictions, vindicates the position that the Justice Secretary released al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds and compassionate grounds alone, based on the rules and regulations of Scots law and the reports of the Parole Board for Scotland, the Prison Governor and the Scottish Prison Service director of health and care Dr Andrew Fraser – all of which have been published,’ he added.
Relatives of victims of the bombing are still looking for clarity and answers.
Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed in the bombing, said: ‘It’s extremely frustrating that we’re here, still talking about this.
‘The fact that it’s now years later means that the decision was probably made on a spurious basis.
‘I’m sure Kenny MacAskill made it in good faith, but why are we having this discussion now? It’s just another thing that remains unsolved.’
Scottish Conservative justice spokesman John Lamont said: ‘Mr Megrahi murdered 270 people in the skies over Scotland.
‘He showed no compassion to his victims.
‘He has admitted his guilt by dropping his appeal. Indeed, the Justice Secretary has made it clear that he believes that Mr Megrahi is guilty.
‘Yet he was been allowed to return to Libya to a hero’s welcome. That was so fundamentally wrong. The SNP’s case for release lies in tatters.’
Thousands of foreigners trapped in Tripoli are set to be evacuated in a massive international rescue operation
‘Under these circumstances there will be no celebrations of Brother Al-Megrahi’s release,’ said the same medical source. ‘Instead he will spend the day in a safe house well away from the fighting.
‘There will be no triumphalism – Brother Al-Megrahi will spend a quiet day with his family,’ the source added.
Al-Megrahi was filmed last month by Libya’s state-run television service at a rally of his tribe, which remains loyal to Colonel Gaddafi.
Despite looking extremely ill as he sat in a wheelchair, Al-Megrahi’s surprise appearance was a huge propaganda coup for the dictator’s beleaguered regime.
But, a few weeks earlier, a mission to capture the freed bomber and return him to face justice in the United States was revealed.
Under a secret deal between Barack Obama and Libyan rebel leaders, Al Megrahi would have been detained by opposition troops and then handed over to US Special Forces.
The Scottish government has insisted the decision to release Al-Megrahi was taken in good faith, and based on medical evidence from Dr Andrew Fraser, the director of health and care of the Scottish Prison Service.
But British Home Secretary William Hague said Al-Megrahi’s release was a ‘great mistake’, adding: ‘This was absolutely the wrong thing to do. It shows the medical advice it was based on was pretty much worthless.’
Meanwhile, Gaddafi is said to be getting ready to go into exile in Tunisia with his family, according to NBC News.
One U.S. official suggested it was possible the dictator would leave within days, the channel reported.
The report follows a series of statements this week from U.S. officials that Gadhafi would soon give up the five-month-old fight and and leave Libya.
Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said: “I think the sense is that Gaddafi’s days are numbered.’
And as fighting moves closer to the Libyan capital, concern is growing for those trapped between Colonel Gaddafi’s troops and rebel forces.
A spokesman for the International Organization for Migration last night said the operation would begin within days.
‘We are looking at all options available, but it will probably have to be by sea,’ Jemini Pandya told a news conference in Switzerland.