A LEADING cancer specialist defended his prognosis that led to the Lockerbie bomber being released from prison on compassionate grounds.

Professor Karol Sikora said he would have made his evidence “more vague” if he had known it would be portrayed so literally, adding that he only provided a medical opinion, The Observer newspaper reported.

His claims could reignite an international debate over the early release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, who is still alive, from a Scottish prison a year ago.

US senators claimed the release was orchestrated by British oil giant BP, which wanted to secure drilling concessions in Libya.

Professor Sikora was one of the physicians paid by the Libyans to provide an expert opinion on Megrahi’s life expectancy after he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Two of the physicians, including Professor Sikora, agreed that Al-Megrahi’s death was “likely” within three months and a third said he did not have long to live, prompting the Scottish government to release him and allow him to fly home to Libya.

Professor Sikora told the newspaper he did not give in to Libyan pressure to agree that Al-Megrahi had only months to live so he would be released.

“I felt, on the balance of probability, you could justify that claim, but you couldn’t say he was definitely going to be dead in three months,” he said.

“When I was asked, ‘Is he likely to die in three months?’ my opinion was that he was. If you look at the survival curve, there’s about a 60 percent chance of someone being dead in three months. The legal side has to have it one way or another. It (the prognosis) can’t be mousey.

“If I did it again, I’d really test the grounds for compassionate release. This three months rule – is it based on the balance of probability or more than that? Is it beyond reasonable doubt? If I could go back in time, I would have probably been more vague and tried to emphasize the statistical chances and not hard fact.”

But the professor said he did not personally play a key role in Al-Megrahi’s release.

“What I find difficult is the idea I took the key and let him out,” he said. “I provided an opinion, others provided an opinion and someone else let him out. That decision of compassionate release is nothing to do with me. No one asked me, ‘Should we let him out?’ All they said was, ‘when do you think he will die?’”