Lockerbie bomber fuels anger just by staying alive

Lockerbie bomber still causing an uproar a year after his release.

Cairo: A year after Scotland`s release of the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber caused an uproar, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is still stirring outrage simply by surviving.

Loved ones of those killed in the 1988 jetliner bombing, who were told he would likely die within three months, feel betrayed. US lawmakers are investigating whether oil giant BP pushed for his release from prison to get Libya`s oil and are assailing Scotland for freeing him.

Lockerbie is the wound that time can`t seem to heal for almost everyone involved in the case.

And with the anniversary on Friday of al-Megrahi`s release, the case is once again the window through which Libya is viewed. The North African nation, for years a pariah state under UN and US sanctions for sponsoring terrorism, now seems to have nowhere to go but up — and is quietly rebuilding after decades of isolation.

The circumstances surrounding al-Megrahi`s release have "reinforced an idea that Libya is still somehow a place that`s problematic”, said John Hamilton, a Libya expert and contributing editor to Africa Energy.

"It`s reminded everyone of that — if they really needed reminding."

While the US and Scotland trade verbal blows and BP tries to defend itself, the nation Muammar Gaddafi has led for four decades is reintegrating into the international community — brimming with confidence that foreign firms are eager to tap into its oil and rebuild an infrastructure crumbling under the sanctions it endured for more than a decade.

Maybe a little too eager, as BP has learned.

Already under scrutiny because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, BP is the focus of a US Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation into whether its USD 900 million offshore exploration deal with Libya was a factor in the release of the only person convicted in the bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. Of the 270 people killed, 179 were Americans.

BP and British officials have repeatedly denied that the oil giant played any role in the decision to free al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds just eight years into a 27-year prison sentence.

"Everything we`ve done on the Lockerbie case over the last 20 years — that is, from the investigation to the trial to the conviction to the incarceration of Mr Megrahi and to his eventual release under compassion grounds — has been done following the precepts of Scottish jurisdiction and Scots law," Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said on Wednesday.

"Some people say that the Scottish system has too much compassion," he said. "But at the end of the day, I think I`d rather be first minister of a society with too much compassion than be first minister of a country with too little compassion."

In the US, many are convinced that al-Megrahi`s freedom was merely a matter of commerce.

Bureau Report

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