The Lockerbie bomber was buried in a Tripoli cemetery yesterday as the row over the case – and his release from jail – raged on.
Up to 200 family and friends attended the burial of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, whose return to Libya three years ago was greeted triumphantly by Colonel Gaddafi’s regime.
The men who were closest to him in his life placed a white shroud across his body, while the traditional Arabic prayer Salat al Janaza was read out by an Iman.
The 60-year-old, who died on Sunday from prostate cancer, is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 with the loss of 270 lives.
As his body was placed in the ground, the handful of family members present shouted out ‘God is Great’ and said private prayers.
They included the former secret serviceman’s four sons. His wife Aisha and one daughter remained at the family home, in accordance with Islamic tradition.
By Muslim custom, Al-Mergahi’s body had to be interned within 24 hours of his death on Sunday.
His body was washed and groomed before the short burial service early on Monday afternoon.
A period of mourning was then formally announced, and it will last for 40 days, as Al-Megrahi’s surviving family receive mourners to their home.
All had been extremely close to the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but have been extremely well treated since the Colonel was murdered by revolutionaries last year.
Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi speaks during an interview his home in Tripoli in October last year(R) and (L) a younger Al-Megrahi in an undated photograph
Mohammed Bukharis, a neighbour, said: ‘Brother Al-Megrahi is honoured and respected by all Libyans because of the suffering and pain he went through following his unjust conviction.
‘Many view him as a national hero because he took the blame and the punishment for a crime that could have seen the whole country punished.
‘There was never any resentment against the Al-Megrahi family when Gaddafi disappeared. On the contrary, all have been honoured.’
Also among those attending today’s funeral were relatives from Sebha, Al-Mergahi’s hometown in the south of Libya.
The town is the home of both Al-Mergahi’s tribe and the Gaddafi tribe.
This led to Colonel Gaddafi filling his intelligence services to members of the so-called Megarha, the tribe to which Al-Megrahi belonged.
Mohammed Harizi, spokesman for Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council, said: ‘No official attended the funeral – it was a private family affair’.
Al-Megrahi turned 60 on April 1st, but had been living on borrowed time since Britain released him on compassionate grounds in 2009 because of prostate cancer.
Earlier this month he was rushed to a private medical clinic in Tripoli where he underwent a blood transfusion.
When he was released from prison in Scotland in August 2009, Al-Megrahi was given just three months to live, but a combination of excellent medical facilities in Libya and the support of his family has allowed him to survive for almost three years.
A revolutionary new cancer treatment developed in London but not yet available in the UK had also enabled Al-Megrahi to survive.
He took Abiraterone, the £3000-a-week hormone-based therapy drug discovered by scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research in London.
Al Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew to New York from London, but has always insisted he is innocent.
His release infuriated many relatives of those who died as the plane exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland.
There were even calls by American politicians for his extradition to face further charges in the USA, but Libya’s new National Transitional Council always resisted them.
He marked his 60th birthday surrounded by family and friends and vowed to ‘prove my innocence’ before he died.
Al-Megrahi’s freedom was largely due to work carried out by the Gaddafi regime, and especially by the dictator’s son, Saif-Al Islam Gaddafi, who is currently being held in custody in Libya, pending a trial.