Senators Demand More Info from Brits on Lockerbie

Friday, 06 Aug 2010 06:55 PM

 

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Four U.S. senators have written to Britain's Foreign Secretary curtly demanding more information to help clear up the "public pall" over the release of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya.

In an accusing tone rarely used with the United States' closest ally, the senators said it appeared British trade interests with Libya had "won out over justice" in last year's release of the man convicted of the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

"It would behoove all of us if you can bring greater transparency to these matters," the four senators told British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

They asked whether Britain's previous Labour government could have prevented Abdel Basset al-Megrahi from being returned to Libya after he was released by Scottish authorities on compassionate grounds because of ill health.

Hague belongs to British Prime Minister David Cameron's Tory party. Megrahi was freed while Hague and Cameron were in opposition, and they have both said the release was wrong.

The letter was signed by the two U.S. senators from New Jersey, Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg, as well as the two senators from New York, Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillebrand. All four are Democrats.

Most of the 270 people killed in the 1988 bombing were Americans. Megrahi's release last year to a triumphant homecoming in Libya provoked an outcry in the United States.

U.S. anger over the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico renewed interest in whether BP pushed for the bomber's release as it sought business with Libya. BP denies this.

MILIBAND'S REMARKS QUESTIONED

Hague wrote a seven-page letter to the Senate last month saying there was no evidence BP was connected to the release.

But the senators said comments by former Foreign Secretary David Miliband -- quoted in Hague's letter -- as well as a letter to Scottish authorities from the Libyan British Business Council urging Megrahi's release, showed trade considerations and British government attitudes may have been influential.

Miliband, who worked for the previous Labour government, was quoted as saying that "British interests, including those of UK nationals, British businesses and possibly security cooperation, would be damaged -- perhaps badly -- if Megrahi were to die in a Scottish prison."

The senators wanted to have a hearing last month on Lockerbie, but postponed after witnesses from Britain refused to appear. BP's former CEO Tony Hayward, former British Justice Minister Jack Straw, and Scottish officials all declined.

A British diplomat said the letter would be given the same consideration as earlier correspondence from the senators, but "we've already released quite a lot of information."

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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