updated 2/23/2011 1:19:21 PM ET 2011-02-23T18:19:21

Libya's ex-justice minister claims he has evidence that Moammar Gadhafi personally ordered the Lockerbie bombing that killed 270 people in 1988, according to a Swedish newspaper.

Expressen on Wednesday quoted Mustafa Abdel-Jalil as telling their correspondent in Libya that "I have proof that Gadhafi gave the order about Lockerbie." He didn't describe the proof.

Abdel-Jalil stepped down as justice minister to protest the violence against anti-government demonstrations.

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He told Expressen that Gadhafi gave the order to Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed all 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.

"To hide it, he (Gadhafi) did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland," Abdel-Jalil was quoted as saying.

Al-Megrahi was granted a compassionate release from a Scottish prison in August 2009 on the grounds that he was suffering from prostate cancer and would die soon. He is still alive.

Expressen spokeswoman Alexandra Forslund said its reporter, Kassem Hamade, interviewed the ex-justice minister at "a local parliament in a large city in Libya." She didn't want to name the city, citing security concerns.

Expressen taped the interview, which was conducted in Arabic and translated to Swedish, Forslund said.

Leader hasn't admitted giving order
Gadhafi has been trying to bring his country out of isolation, announcing in 2003 that he was abandoning his program for weapons of mass destruction and renouncing terrorism.

Gadhafi also accepted Libya's responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and paid compensation to the victims' families. But he hasn't admitted personally giving the order for the attack.

Image: Abdel Baset al-Megrahi
AFP - Getty Images
Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is shown being flown to Libya in 2009.

Most of the victims in the Lockerbie bombing were Americans, and al-Megrahi's release has been criticized by members of the U.S. Congress and the victims' families.

Bob Monetti, of Cherry Hill, N.J., whose 20-year-old son Richard was killed in the bombing, said he's glad to hear a former official say what's been clear to him all along. He said officials and the media, especially in the U.K., have been denying that.

"If you went to the trial, there was no question about who did it and why, and who ordered it," Monetti said.

Lisa Gibson, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, lost her 20-year-old brother Ken in the bombing.

"I'm not surprised for him to say that Gadhafi is responsible because ultimately we know that," Gibson said.

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Al-Megrahi's trial was conducted at a special Scottish court set up in the Netherlands after years of diplomatic maneuvering.

In Britain, some Lockerbie victims' relatives have questioned his conviction. They argue that insufficient attention was paid to the possibility that the bombing was carried out not by Libyan intelligence but by Iranian-backed Palestinian terrorists.

Their case was bolstered when the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Board raised questions about evidence used to convict al-Megrahi. The former Libyan agent had been in the process of appealing his conviction when he was released.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Video: Report: British government pushed Lockerbie release

  1. Closed captioning of: Report: British government pushed Lockerbie release

    >> we're learning much more about the british government 's involvement in the release of the lockerbie bomber . new documents released today show the labor party led by prime minister tony blair did all it could to secure the release of abdel basset al megrahi . the only man convicted with the bombing of pan am flight 103 which killed 270 people. nbc's national investigative correspondent michael isikoff has been following that story for us. michael, what have you been able to find tout?

    >> well, there's a lot of really interesting new details in these documents. this was a document review that british prime minister david cameron had promised the white house and the congress last summer that he would undertake because of the widespread outrage in the u.s. over the decision to release the convicted terrorist, megrahi . and what we've gotten in these documents, which were overseen by a career civil servant, the review, is additional contacts by bp, the -- the oil company , with -- to the british government , urging that a prisoner transfer agreement -- that includes megrahi , be signed, that unless steps were taken by the british government to help get megrahi released, it would jeopardize commercial interests, including that big bp oil deal. now, what this document review concludes was that this became british policy, to try to get a prisoner transfer agreement that would get megrahi relieased in order not to jeopardize british commercial interests. there are a lot of wrinkles to this because it's the scottish government , ultimately, that released megrahi , and not on the basis of the prisoner transfer agreement . so the brits have always said, don't blame us, blame the scots, but what these documents do show is that the idea of releasing megrahi , ultimately, on compassionate release grounds, was proposed to the libyans by the british government . in other words, the british government under tony blair and then gordon brown were working with the libyans to try to get megrahi released.

    >> have we gotten any reaction from the families of 103?

    >> not yet. but we can expect a reaction from both the families, the senators, particularly the senators from new york and new jersey who have been making a big issue of this, who say this was really a shameful scandal, and that needs further investigation. megrahi , of course, nearly a year and a half after he was released, supposedly had only three months to live, is, as far as we know, alive and well , still in his luxury villa in libya, and that really bothers a lot of people in the u.s., particularly the families of the lockerbie victims.

    >> understandably so. michael, it's always good to see you. thank

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