Scotland declines to attend US Lockerbie hearing

US Senators want to know if BP had any role in Lockerbie bomber`s release.

London: Scottish ministers have declined a request to attend a US Senate hearing about the circumstances surrounding the release of the Lockerbie bomber, a spokesman for the Scottish government has said.

The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations wrote a letter to the Scottish administration inviting Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and the Scottish Prison Service`s medical chief, Andrew Fraser, to attend the hearing in
Washington on July 29.

Sen Robert Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, wrote to First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond, saying that the invitation was to help the senators better understand why Scotland decided to free Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from jail last year and send him home to Libya.

Megrahi was convicted of the 1988 bombing of a US airline that slammed into the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people.

The senators are investigating whether an oil exploration deal between BP and Libya influenced the decision to release al-Megrahi.

A spokesman for the Scottish government confirmed on Thursday that the invitation to MacAskill and Fraser had been turned down.

Both Salmond and British Foreign Secretary William Hague had written to Sen John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to stress that there was nothing to suggest BP had influenced the Scottish government.

Also yesterday, the BBC and Sky News reported that former British justice secretary Jack Straw had also been invited to the Senate hearing.

Straw said in a statement he had not received any formal invitation, but commented that it was "highly unusual" for the US to inquire into the British decision.


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