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Diplomacy in Action

Response to U.S. Senators on the Release of Abdelbasset al-Megrahi


Media Note
Office of the Spokesman
Washington, DC
July 19, 2010

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The following is the text of the response from Secretary Clinton to Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, Lautenberg and Menendez regarding the release of Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.

Thank you for your letters of July 12 and 13 regarding the release in August 2009 of convicted PanAm 103 bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi.

I and other senior U.S. officials strongly and consistently expressed to Scottish authorities and the then-British government our longstanding position that al-Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland for his role in the bombing of PanAm 103. We strongly opposed his release last year, regardless of life expectancy or any other factor, and continue to maintain that position today.

We are aware of media reports suggesting a link between BP’s commercial interests in Libya and al-Megrahi’s deeply regrettable release from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds last year. As you are likely aware, BP’s position favoring a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) between the United Kingdom and Libya is a matter of public record. The then-British government undertook to conclude the PTA in 2007-2008 as part of its broader reengagement with Libya. In 2009, the decision of whether to release al-Megrahi from prison fell exclusively to the Scottish government under local law, and specifically, to the Scottish Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill.

While Mr. MacAskill ultimately rejected the application for al-Megrahi’s transfer under the UK-Libya PTA, al-Megrahi also petitioned for release on compassionate grounds, as permitted under Scottish law. According to the Scottish government, Mr. MacAskill decided to release al-Megrahi on these grounds based on the medical prognosis of the Scottish Prison Service and a range of medical specialists (which Scottish officials have advised us did not include the doctor references in recent media reports).

Whatever the rationale, we do not believe the decision to release al-Megrahi and permit his return to Libya was in the interest of justice, and we continue to believe his freedom is not in the interest of justice. The new British government has expressed its view his release and return to Libya was “wrong” and “a mistake.” That al-Megrahi is living out his remaining days outside of Scottish custody is an affront to the victims’ families, the memories of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing, and to all of those who worked tirelessly to ensure justice was served. While any decision to review or reconsider the decision to release al-Megrahi remains a matter for the Scottish authorities, we have maintained and will continue to maintain in our exchanges with Scottish officials our unshakable conviction that al-Megrahi should not be a free man.

To that end, we are encouraging the Scottish and British authorities to review again the underlying facts and circumstances leading to the release of al-Megrahi and to consider any new information that has come to light since his release. I have also asked British Foreign Secretary Hague to review and address the issues raised in your letters and to respond directly to the Congress, which he has advised me he will do.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance on this or any other issue.



PRN: 2010/977



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