Lockerbie Probe May Prove Uncomfortable for Obama Administration

July 26, 2010 05:35

The four Democratic U.S. senators probing the early release of the Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie bombing believe there were links to a BP oil deal, but their inquiry may have the unintended consequence of raising questions about just how strongly the Obama administration opposed the Libyan’s release.

By Patrick Goodenough

Abdel Baset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi was the only person convicted of the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing in which 270 people were killed. Sentenced to life in prison, he was freed and sent home last summer “on compassionate grounds,” after medical experts said he was dying of prostate cancer.

Scottish government ministers, stung by accusations that they released Megrahi to ease a massive oil exploration contract in Libya, are pointing out that it is the U.S. government that is blocking the release of two documents relating to the decision.

One of the documents is a demarche and letter to Scottish First Minister Salmond from deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in London, Richard LeBaron, dated August 12, 2009, eight days before Megrahi was released.

Leaked to London’s Sunday Times this week, the letter reportedly argues that Megrahi should remain in custody – but goes on to say that if Scotland concludes he must be released, then doing so on compassionate grounds would be “far preferable” to his repatriation under a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA) which Britain negotiated with Libya in 2007.

LeBaron reportedly wrote that freeing Megrahi from custody – remaining in Scotland, not returning to Libya – would mitigate some strong U.S. concerns.

The text, if corroborated, appears to call into question at least part of President Obama’s assertion last week that “all of us here in the United States were surprised, disappointed, and angry” about Megrahi’s release.


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