Senator’s anger at Lockerbie ‘stonewalling’

By politics.co.uk staff

The refusal of key players in the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi to give evidence to the US Senate’s foreign relations committee is attracting criticism in Washington.

Energy giant BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward, former UK justice secretary Jack Straw and his Scottish counterpart Kenny MacAskill have declined offers to provide testimony.

New Jersey senator Robert Menendez, who had been set to begin hearings on Thursday, accused potential witnesses of “stonewalling”.

“We don’t intend for this to be forgotten or swept under the rug,” he said.

“They have stonewalled. Each side has claimed innocence, each side has blamed the other.

“It is a game of diplomatic tennis that is worthy of Wimbledon, but not worthy on behalf of the lives of the families who still have to deal with this terrorist act and the consequences of the loss of loved ones in their lives.”

The committee is investigating the potential role played by BP in Megrahi’s release, which eventually took place on compassionate grounds in August 2009.

Mr Menendez added: “In the case of BP, it is hard to imagine that a company on such thin ice with the American people, after devastating our Gulf Coast, would not fully cooperate in getting to the bottom of the release of a terrorist who murdered 189 Americans.”

BP has admitted lobbying the previous Labour government in 2007 over a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, but denied specifically discussing the case of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

Al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison last August on compassionate grounds after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and given just three months to live.

He was given a hero’s welcome upon his return to Tripoli after serving eight years of a life sentence given to him upon conviction for the murder of 270 people on board Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in connection with the bombing, was incorrectly reported as dead last October but few updates have been given on his condition since his release. His release by the Scottish government soured US-UK relations as most of the victims were American.