July 12, 2010

Schumer, Menendez, Gillibrand, Lautenberg Call On State Department To Pressure London To Return Lockerbie Bomber To Prison; Al-Megrahi Was Given 'Three Months To Live' - Reports Say Terrorist Could Live Another Ten

Al-Megrahi Given Early Release Based on 'Three Months to Live' Diagnosis; Almost a Year Later, Convicted Terrorist Alive and Well and English Doctor Who Examined Him Said He May Live Another Ten Years

Almost a year after the release of Abdul Al-Megrahi, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) today called on the US State Department to pressure London to immediately seek the return of convicted terrorist,  Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to Scottish prison. This past Friday, the Scottish government refused to reinvestigate the release of the Lockerbie bomber. Schumer and Menendez noted the release of al-Megrahi was predicated on his only have three months to live, yet the doctor who examined him now suggests the bomber of Pan Am flight 103 may well live for another ten years.

Al-Megrahi, the only man convicted for taking part in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 on December 21, 1988, was released by the Scottish Government in August 2009 as a compassionate gesture given al-Megrahi’s failing health. Al-Megrahi has now lived a full 8 months beyond the 3 months given for his compassion release.

In a letter sent last week to the British Ambassador to the United States, the Senators raised concern that the doctors who consulted with the Justice Secretary had been paid by the Libyan government and were encouraged to provide a life expectancy of three months - a life expectancy estimate that is critical to satisfy Scottish guidelines for compassionate release.  According to news reports, Professor Karol Sikora, one of the Libyan-commissioned doctors, recently revealed that “the figure of three months was suggested as being helpful [by the Libyans].”  He explained that while he thought it was “impossible” to give a three-month life expectancy, he found he could do it, despite the fact that other doctors would not commit to such a short estimate. The doctor has since said al-Megrahi could live another ten years.

Despite the request of Senators Schumer, Menendez, Gillibrand and Lautenberg, the Scottish government on Friday rejected reinvestigating al-Megrahi’s release, claiming due process had been followed and there was no further need to investigate the decision any further. The senators are demanding the US State Department pressure London to have him returned to prison immediately.

“The decision by the Scottish government to reject our request to reinvestigate the decision to release this terrorist raises more suspicions as to whether there was a rotten deal between the United Kingdom and the Libya government,” said Schumer. “So we’re calling on the State Department to put a full court press on the United Kingdom to return this terrorist to prison.”

"The families of the 270 people who were murdered have already once lived through an unthinkable, real-life horror story. It’s as if they now are being forced to live through a sequel. They believed that justice had found the man who killed their loved ones, only to see that the system was rigged and that this terrorist is having the last laugh. This is outrageous and cruel. There are many reasons why the administration needs to use its weight in this situation – for the families whose loved ones were murdered, for national security, and for fundamental justice."

While the Scottish government has claimed its decision to release al-Megrahi was wholly  independent of outside influence, several reports has suggested that under pressure from British authorities, the Scottish government facilitated al-Megrahi’s release to assist the UK with an oil deal with Libya.

In their letter to Secretary Clinton, Schumer, Menendez, Gillibrand, and Lauenberg stated the US Government must do everything in its power to pressure London to put a facilitate a  return of this convicted mass murderer of 270 people, 189 of whom were Americans, to Scotland to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence.

The Senators' full letter:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
United States Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Clinton:

We write to respectfully ask that the State Department work with the government of the United Kingdom to secure the return of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted mass murderer of 270 people including 189 Americans, to Scotland to serve out the remainder of his life prison sentence.

On August 20, 2009, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill granted al-Megrahi a license of release based on compassionate grounds in accordance with the powers granted in section 3 of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act of 1993.  Based on the advice of doctors, Secretary MacAskill apparently believed that his decision was justified.  However, with the recent reports contradicting the veracity of these medical reports, we have serious concerns that this decision was based on inaccurate information.

As we wrote in a recent letter to the British Ambassador to the United States, we were very troubled by the news that a doctor who provided medical analysis at the time of the release had been paid by the Libyan government.  This doctor was encouraged to provide a life expectancy of three months - a life expectancy estimate that is critical to satisfy Scottish guidelines for compassionate release.  According to news reports, Professor Karol Sikora, one of the Libyan-commissioned doctors, recently revealed that “the figure of three months was suggested as being helpful [by the Libyans].”  He explained that while he thought it was “impossible” to give a three-month life expectancy, he found he could do it, despite the fact that other doctors would not commit to such a short estimate. Despite our appeal to investigate this matter in light of the relevance of these new reports, we were disappointed to learn that the Scottish government rejected our request on Friday, July 9, claiming due process had been followed and there was no need to investigate the decision any further.

Notwithstanding the Scottish authorities’ conclusions, it remains our position that the grounds for release are not justified and al-Megrahi should be sent back to Scotland to serve out the remainder of his prison term. In addition to a state-sponsored welcome home celebration authorized by Libyan leader Muammar al-Qadhafi, al-Megrahi has enjoyed ten months of freedom, reportedly living in the lap of luxury and working on an autobiography that would permit him to profit from his case.  Meanwhile, the families of 270 of his victims continue to suffer from the tragic loss of their loved ones.  The international community should not allow this terrorist to make a mockery of the justice system.

We believe that the administration should use its diplomatic leverage to secure the immediate return of this convicted mass murderer to Scotland to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence.

Thank you for your consideration of this important request. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices if we can be of any assistance.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez
U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand
U.S. Senator Frank L. Lautenberg