'Near death' claims over freed Lockerbie bomber are denied

Claims that the Lockerbie bomber is close to death are "unfounded", insists the local authority charged with monitoring him.

East Renfrewshire Council was responding to news reports that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi had suffered a rapid deterioration in his health.

Terminally-ill Megrahi was controversially granted compassionate release from a Scottish jail nearly 16 months ago.

Yesterday it was reported he was on a life-support machine in Libya and his family expected him to die within days.

The reports said he had not been able to speak for some weeks and was now in a coma.

A spokeswoman for East Renfrewshire Council, whose criminal justice social work staff monitor Megrahi, said: "Today's media speculation regarding Mr Megrahi is just that, and rumours are unfounded."

She added: "We continue to be in contact with Mr Megrahi regularly and whenever we need to be for the purposes of supervision."

Megrahi was sentenced to life in jail after his conviction for the murder of 270 people in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland.

The decision to free him, taken by Scotland's Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, sparked fury in the US and was condemned by President Barack Obama's administration.

Last week Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi said Megrahi's family would be suing over his "neglect" in Greenock Prison.

He said: "His health was not looked after in prison. He didn't have any periodic examination. I wish him a long life.

"After he passes away, his family will demand compensation because he was deliberately neglected in prison."

A group of campaigners in the UK is calling for an independent inquiry into the bomber's conviction.