US senators renew call for full Lockerbie probe

20th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

The British and Scottish governments must back a new independent investigation into the decision to free the Lockerbie bomber one year ago, four US senators angry over the release said Thursday.

Democratic Senators Robert Menendez, Frank Lautenberg, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand made their appeal in letters to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The lawmakers have alleged that Scottish authorities may have let Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi return to his native Libya because of pressure from energy giant BP, eager to safeguard a lucrative exploration deal with Tripoli.

"We again call for a comprehensive, independent investigation with subpoena authority into al-Megrahi's release, fully supported by the UK and Scottish Governments," they wrote to Cameron.

Such a probe "is ultimately the best avenue to address the concerns that we and the families of the victims have raised," they wrote Salmond, who has denied that the embattled oil firm swayed the decision.

"Until such an inquiry is launched, we will not stand by as an injustice remains very much alive in a villa in Tripoli. The American people -- and, indeed, the people of 21 nations who suffered the loss of their loved ones -- require nothing less," they said in the letter to Salmond.

Megrahi was the only man convicted in the 1988 terrorist attack over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, in which 270 people died, including 189 Americans.

He was released on compassionate grounds from a Scottish prison on August 20, 2009 over US objections and allowed to return to Libya after receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer and being told he had three months to live.

But he remains alive, prompting US critics to question whether oil giant BP had lobbied on Megrahi's behalf in order to safeguard a 900-million-dollar contract with Libya -- something the firm and British officials deny.

Menendez was expected to chair a US Senate foreign relations committee hearing into the issue after lawmakers return from a six-week break on September 13.

And he and Lautenberg were to hold a press conference Friday with a woman who lost her father, brother and sister in the attack.

They were to release a new letter to the Libyan, Qatari, Scottish and British governments "citing evidence of commercial pressures influencing his release," according to Menendez's office.

© 2010 AFP

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