Not happy to see Lockerbie bomber as free man: US

The US is not happy that Lockerbie bomber sits in Libya today as a free man.

Updated: Jul 16, 2010, 11:01 AM IST

Washington: The United States has said that it is unhappy that Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, the Libyan official who was convicted of orchestrating the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, sits in Libya today as a free man.

Megrahi, suffering from cancer, was released by Scottish authorities last August on humanitarian grounds as doctors said that his life was only for three months.

The Libyan doctors now say he can live for more than a decade.

"As we have said many times, we are unhappy that Megrahi sits in Libya today as a free man. We understand the outrage that the families of Pan Am 103 and their elected officials feel about this. We share this frustration," State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, said.

"But as to whether there`s anything that really is there to investigate, as the BP clarifies what they did today, we understand more about what might or might not have happened," he told reporters.

Crowley said the British authorities and Scottish authorities made clear last year that the issue of Megrahi was not connected to the prisoner transfer agreement.

"As we`ve said many times, including throughout last year as Scottish authorities were making this decision, we felt the decision to release Megrahi was a mistake. We thought it then; we think it now," he said.

Meanwhile, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has announced to hold a hearing on the circumstances surrounding last year`s release of Megrahi.

"I opposed Megrahi`s release on medical grounds last year as a travesty and the details that have emerged in recent days in the press have raised new concerns," said Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The bombing of Pan Am 103 was an unforgivable act of terrorism in which 189 Americans, including nine from Massachusetts, lost their lives. On behalf of those victims and their families, we must get to the bottom of what led to the mistaken release of the only person ever convicted for that terrible crime," he said.

Senator Bob Robert Menendez, who would chair the hearing, said: "For our national security and for fundamental justice, we need answers about the circumstances of this convicted terrorist`s release, and we intend to get answers at this hearing."

The more it seems that this was a miscarriage of justice, the more it emboldens would-be terrorists who realise they can get away with murder, Menendez said.

"The more it seems like a rigged decision, the bigger an insult it is to the families of 189 murdered Americans – 38 of whom lived in New Jersey. Among those we will ask to testify are government experts and BP," he said.

Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was sentenced to life in prison by a Scottish court for his role in the bombing over the Scottish village of Lockerbie.

He was allowed to return to Libya last August after doctors told the Scottish government that he was likely to die of cancer within three months.

In recent days, questions have been raised about the release and whether Megrahi, who is still alive, was suffering as seriously as described by doctors at the time.