July 07, 2010

After New Reports That Lockerbie Bomber Still Alive, Gillibrand, Schumer, Lautenberg, Menendez Urge British Government To Investigate Release Of Libya’s Convicted Terrorist

Senators: ‘Lockerbie Bomber Should Spend Rest of His Days in Prison’

With new reports that Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is still alive nearly a year after the cancer-stricken terrorist was released on compassionate grounds based on medical evaluation that he had only three months left to live, U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) are urging the British government to conduct a full investigation into the Scottish court’s decision to release the convicted terrorist. The Senators expressed concern directly to the British Ambassador to the United States that the Lockerbie bomber, who only served eight years of a life sentence and could now live for another decade, may have been released based on fraudulent medical evidence.

“The latest reports are extremely troubling,” said Senator Gillibrand. We, in the United States, opposed the decision by the Scottish court to release Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi. Justice was not served and the families of Pan Am Flight 103 were forced to relive the horrific loss of their loved ones. Megrahi should serve his full sentence and spend the rest of his days in prison.”

“There is clear reason to believe that this terrorist was released based on false information about his health,” said Senator Schumer. “This is especially galling to those of us who believed he shouldn't have been released even if it had been true that his death was imminent.”

“I was outraged when Mr. al-Megrahi was released from prison and it is sickening that this convicted terrorist may have been released under false pretenses,” said Senator Lautenberg.  “This terrorist belongs in prison and these allegations must be investigated promptly.  As always, my thoughts remain with the families of the victims of Pan Am 103 as they relive this tragedy.”

“When Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was released a year ago we decried the fact that a convicted terrorist, who took the lives of hundreds of American citizens, had been set free under questionable circumstances concerning his health," said Senator Menendez. "Now, claims that he is still alive, looking like he may well live for many years to come, makes clear that British authorities need to fully investigate the evidence and circumstances surrounding his release. This is a matter not only of serving justice for the innocent individuals who lost their lives in Pan Am Flight 103, but also of protecting the international community from the threat of terrorists like him.”

In their letter to British Ambassador to the United States Nigel Sheinwald, the Senators noted the public allegations that the Lockerbie bomber’s release was motivated by business and political factors.  News reports have also alleged that the Libyan government commissioned one of the doctors to make the inaccurate three-month prognosis of the Lockerbie bomber in order to secure his freedom.

In 2001, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 11 on the ground and all 259 on board, including 189 Americans, many of whom were New Yorkers and New Jersey residents.

On August 20, 2009, the Scottish Government released Al-Megrahi, based on grounds that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and only had three months to live. Upon his return to Libya, the terrorist received a hero’s welcome. Senators Gillibrand, Schumer, Lautenberg, and Menendez condemned his release and demanded an apology from the Libyan government in a Senate resolution passed last year.

Recent reports now reveal that the Lockerbie bomber outlived his three-month prognosis and, according to one of the doctors, could live for another 10 years or more.

Full text of the letter is below:

July 7, 2010

His Excellency Sir Nigel Sheinwald
Ambassador of the United Kingdom
3100 Massachusetts Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20008
Excellency:

We are very troubled by the press reports this weekend that the 2009 release from jail by a Scottish justice on compassionate grounds of Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, was based on potentially fraudulent evidence.  Our governments share a concern for the increased incidence of terrorist attacks against our countries and citizens. We are certain that we would all be concerned if it turns out that a convicted terrorist were released based on inaccurate evidence.

As you know, Mr. Al-Megrahi was the only one sentenced in connection with a shocking terrorist attack, impacting both of our countries. A number of our constituents continue to bear the emotional scars and financial burden of losing their loved ones in that attack on Pan Am 103 twenty-two years ago. It was of some consolation to them that at least one culprit was brought to justice.

Close to one year ago, the Scottish court released Mr. Al-Megrahi on the basis of a doctor’s opinion that the Libyan attacker had only 3 months left to live. He had served only eight years of a life sentence. We raised concerns at the time of his release, specifically Libya’s unseemly reception for a convicted murderer and his lack of remorse for his actions.

Mr. Al-Megrahi is still alive and reportedly living in luxury. Furthermore this week, the doctor responsible for the key medical opinion has told the media that not only could Mr. Al-Megrahi live another 10 years, but that the Libyan government had commissioned the doctor to make his assessment, expressly because the Libyan government hoped for a 3-month prognosis. This is outrageous.

These newly revealed details threaten to undermine public trust in due process and justice for the victims of terrorism. Unfortunately, allegations are circulating in the media that the release may have been motivated by political and business considerations. If true, this would significantly undermine the ability of countries that practice the rule of law to bring future terrorists to justice.

We urgently request that a full, transparent and appropriate investigation be conducted into whether all appropriate judicial steps were followed, and whether any inappropriate considerations were part of the judicial decision to release Mr. Al-Megrahi.

We appreciate the concern that this must raise for both of our governments and our constituents and hope to hear from you soon about this matter.