Full Lockerbie probe still needed: US senator
A US senator scoffed Monday at a British government report that found no evidence of direct pressure from London on Scotland to free the Lockerbie bomber, and urged a new probe into his release.
"We renew our call again for an independent inquiry," Democratic Senator Robert Menendez said on a conference call with reporters. "It is important to get to the totality of the truth here."
His comments came after an official review of Scotland's decision to free Libyan national Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi found Britain's former government did "all it could" to help Libya in its appeals for his release.
The review, by Britain's top civil servant Gus O'Donnell, said the Labour government feared that "UK interests would be damaged" if the bomber died in a Scottish jail but found no evidence of direct pressure by London on Edinburgh.
To say there was no such squeeze "really stretches the imagination," said Menendez, who told reporters O'Donnell's review had focused on government documents and therefore "won't produce all of the facts and all of the truth."
"I have spent enough time in my own government to know that many conversations take place that are not memorialized" on paper, said the lawmaker, who conducted his own investigation into the issue last year.
Megrahi, 58, is the only person ever convicted over the 1988 attack in which 270 people, most of them Americans, were killed when Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
The Scottish authorities, who have power over their own judicial affairs, released Megrahi on compassionate grounds in August 2009 after doctors said he was suffering from terminal cancer and had three months to live.
His release and subsequent hero's return to Tripoli drew a furious response from many, and outrage in the United States has been stoked by the fact that he remains alive almost a year and a half after his release.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Monday that the decision to release Megrahi was "profoundly wrong" but added he did not believe the report justified calls for a new inquiry.
He pointed to conspiracy theories and suggestions that Megrahi's release was the result of pressure from oil giant BP, looking to expand operations in Libya, and declared: "This report shows it's not true."
"It was a decision taken by the Scottish government. The wrong decision, but their decision nevertheless," he said.
Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg said British officials aimed to "dodge responsibility" for the decision and said the report "acknowledges the government's desire to see a mass murderer released, yet tries to shift blame."
"The denials continue to ring hollow. The families have suffered long enough and it's time to acknowledge the truth: Justice was traded for commercial interests," Lautenberg said in a statement.
Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer said the finding of no direct pressure from London "strains credulity" because London made its position clear to those who made the final decision.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called the report "deeply troubling" and warned "economic and trade interests should never take precedence over matters of justice."
© 2011 AFP