TRIPOLI, Libya -- The rebel government will not deport the man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, its justice minister said yesterday.
New York senators asked the Libyan transitional government last Monday to hold Abdel-Baset al-Megrahi fully accountable for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270 people.
But the transitional government's justice minister, Mohammed al-Alagi, told journalists in Tripoli that the request by American senators had "no meaning" because al-Megrahi had already been tried and convicted.
"We will not hand over any Libyan citizen. It was Gadhafi who handed over Libyan citizens," he said, referring to the government's decision to turn al-Megrahi over to a Scottish court for trial.
The Scottish government released al-Megrahi in 2009, believing he would soon die of cancer. He was greeted as a hero in his native Libya and met with Gadhafi.
Last night, CNN reported that al-Megrahi appears "at death's door."
CNN correspondent Nic Robertson said he found al-Megrahi in what was described as a palatial house in an upmarket part of Tripoli, guarded by at least six security cameras and attended to by concerned relatives.
"He appears to be a shell of the man that he was, far sicker than he appeared before . . . at death's door," Robertson said.
Sen. Charles Schumer had encouraged the new Libyan leadership to hold al-Megrahi accountable. "A new Libya can send a strong statement to the world by declaring it will no longer be a haven for this convicted terrorist," he said.
Scottish officials overseeing al-Megrahi's parole have said they want to contact him, now that the fighting between Libyan forces and rebels has reached Tripoli.
Al-Megrahi is the only person convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Britain's worst terrorist attack.
His release after serving eight years of a life sentence infuriated the families of many victims, who suspected Britain's real motive was to improve relations with oil-rich Libya.
Al-Megrahi's current whereabouts are unknown and, on Saturday, no one answered the door of his villa, hidden behind tall walls in an upscale Tripoli neighborhood.
A neighbor, Yousef Mohammed, said he saw al-Megrahi's son in the street on Friday and assumed that the family had not left the area.
The neighbor, said he often saw al-Megrahi in the neighborhood. "This guy is sick. All the time, I saw him in the [wheelchair]," he said.
According to a Reuters report, one of al-Megrahi's neighbors said he had been whisked away by security guards last week when Tripoli fell to rebels battling forces loyal to Gadhafi, who like al-Megrahi, has gone into hiding.
"The day Tripoli fell, four security men, his private security, took him, his wife and his sons and left. They left in a Mercedes," said Ahmed Mlaaty, 20, a student and one of al-Megrahi's neighbors, standing outside his handsome villa.