Key US Senate panel to examine Lockerbie bomber release
A key US Senate panel announced Thursday it would look into Scotland's decision to free the Lockerbie bomber amid calls from US lawmakers to judge whether oil giant BP played an improper role.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee said it would hold a hearing July 29 into events leading up to the release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi last year on humanitarian grounds and over fierce objections from Washington.
"We must get to the bottom of what led to the mistaken release of the only person ever convicted for that terrible crime," said Democratic Senator John Kerry, the panel's chairman.
US lawmakers this week charged that BP may have pressed Britain to free Megrahi from the Scottish prison where he was held for the 1988 bombing of a US Pan Am jumbo jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 270 people.
"Among those we will ask to testify are government experts and BP," said Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, who will chair the session and has been among those raising questions over BP's role. "We intend to get answers."
Megrahi was released in August 2009 on compassionate grounds because he was said to be suffering from terminal cancer and had only three months to live. Reports have now emerged that he could live at least another 10 years.
The British government has denied news reports that BP lobbied key officials to free Megrahi in order to protect a lucrative oil exploration deal with Libya.
© 2010 AFP