Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi has formally dropped his appeal against conviction, paving the way for his transfer home to Libya.
Al-Megrahi is the only person to be convicted of murdering 270 people when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown out of the skies over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.
He was jailed for at least 27 years, and launched a second appeal against his conviction in April after losing an earlier appeal in 2002.
But the 57-year-old is now seeking release from prison on humanitarian grounds, because he is suffering from prostate cancer.
Following the Edinburgh court’s ruling on Tuesday, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill will now have to decide whether to allow Megrahi to return home to die.
Transfer to Libyan jail
The minister is mulling two options: either to let the former Libyan agent transfer from a Scottish jail to a Libyan prison – a process which can only go ahead once his appeal is dropped – or to release him on compassionate grounds.
Media reports have suggested Megrahi would be released this week, in time for the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
But on Monday, the Times newspaper said the Scottish government appeared to have buckled under pressure from Washington and abandoned plans to release him immediately.
The United States has made it clear it wants Megrahi to stay behind bars until he dies; reports have indicated he may only have a few months to live.
At the same time Libya – whose ties with the West have thawed since it renounced weapons of mass destruction in 2003 and agreed to compensate the Lockerbie victims’ relatives – has warned of serious economic fallout if he is not released.
Libya has the largest proven oil reserves of any African country, much of it still untapped, and British firms including BP and Shell have signed major exploration deals there in recent years, which could in theory be under threat.