Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Secretary, said he was being "true to our values" in deciding to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, so he could die in his homeland, The Times of London reported.
"Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people, no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated," MacAskill said when announcing his decision in Edinburgh. "For these reasons, and these reasons alone, it is my decision that Mr. Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, now be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die."
The United States had been pressuring Scottish officials to keep al-Megrahi in the Scottish prison where he was incarcerated since being convicted for his role in the bombing that killed 270 people.
"The United States deeply regrets the decision by the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset (Mohmed) al-Megrahi," the White House said in a release. "As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland."
The Times reported preparations were being put in place at Tripoli airport to receive al-Megrahi later Thursday. It earlier reported Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi would send his private jet to transport al-Megrahi.