Senators discuss Lockerbie bomber release

August 21, 2010 8:12:24 AM PDT
New Jersey's two U.S. senators on Friday renewed calls for answers one year after the Pan Am 103 bomber was released from a Scottish prison.

Democrats Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg held a news conference to demand more details about the circumstances of Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds. He's still alive in Libya even though doctors had said he would likely die of prostate cancer in three months.

Al-Megrahi was the only person jailed for the 1988 bombing above the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 259 people onboard and 11 on the ground.

Menendez and Lautenberg both questioned the term "compassionate release," saying such consideration was never shown to the 270 victims - 189 of which were Americans, and 38 of them from New Jersey.

"The true measure of a democracy is its dispensation of justice," Lautenberg said. "One year ago today, sadly, Scotland failed to live up to this."

In a series of letters - co-signed by New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand - Menendez and Lautenberg have called on the British, Scottish, Libyan and Qatari governments to support an independent investigation in the United Kingdom into the circumstances of Al-Megrahi's release.

The letters cite what they say is evidence of commercial pressures that influenced the decision to let Al-Megrahi return to Libya before serving out his full sentence.

Among their several demands, the senators seek a more thorough accounting of the medical diagnosis that figured prominently in arguments to release Al-Megrahi, and disclosure of all communications between the parties involved.

They also seek any communications between British Petroleum officials and the British government regarding claims that BP lobbied in 2007 for the ratification of a prison transfer agreement, fearing its delay could negatively impact an exploration agreement with Libya.

The senators say the matter will never be put to rest, and the families of the victims will never have closure, until all the facts that went into the decision to release Al-Megrahi are made public.