Senate seeks testimony from BP's Hayward on Lockerbie case

22nd July 2010, Comments 0 comments

BP chief executive Tony Hayward has been asked to testify before a US Senate committee about the firm's role in Scotland's decision to release the Lockerbie bomber, a Democratic senator said Thursday.

Senator Robert Menendez said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hoped to pin down whether BP had lobbied the Scottish government ahead of its decision to release cancer-stricken Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds.

A source familiar with the matter said BP advisor Mark Allen also has been asked to appear before the committee.

Despite a doctor's assessment that Megrahi, 58, had as little as three months to live, the Libyan national is still alive nearly a year after his August 2009 release.

"For our national security and for fundamental justice, we need answers about the circumstances of this convicted terrorist's release, and we intend to get answers at this hearing," Menendez said in a statement.

"The more it seems that this was a miscarriage of justice, the more it emboldens would-be terrorists who realize they can get away with murder," said the lawmaker, who represents the northeastern US state of New Jersey.

"The more it seems like a rigged decision, the bigger an insult it is" to those who perished in the crash, said the senator, who said government experts also would be called upon to testify.

In a letter to the committee chairman Senator John Kerry Thursday, Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond said none of his ministers would attend the hearing.

"I completely understand your personal interest in this matter and the pain and anguish of your constituents," he wrote.

Salmond said he had instructed his staff to cooperate with any information requested by the committee, but stressed that there was virtually no more information about the decision being held back.

"The only relevant material held by the Scottish government, yet to be published, is material related to the UK and US administrations, where we await permission to publish," he said.

"That being the case, I believe that I have offered all assistance that could reasonably be expected of an overseas government and respectfully decline your invitation for Scottish ministers to appear at the hearing."

Meghrahi was the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, most of whose 270 victims were from the United States.

He was allowed to return to Tripoli after serving only eight years of his 27-year sentence.

News reports said BP had lobbied for the bomber's release to safeguard a lucrative oil deal with Libya -- an allegation denied by the Scottish government.

© 2010 AFP

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