The U.S. State Department said Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is calling on Scottish and British authorities to review the circumstances that led Scotland to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, in 2009.
State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters that Clinton issued a letter in response to one from U.S. senators that called for an investigation into whether the BP oil company pressured Scotland to release Megrahi.
Crowley said Clinton acknowledged in her letter that it is up to Scottish authorities to decide whether to review the circumstances surrounding Megrahi's release, but she underscored that the United States has always opposed his freedom. "To quote her, you know, '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," he said.
The bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988 killed 270 people. Only one person, Megrahi, was convicted in the attack.
It has been almost one year since Scottish authorities freed Megrahi on humanitarian grounds. The fact that he is still alive in Libya is a surprise to many who were told that the convicted bomber would likely die of terminal prostate cancer before the end of last year.
The issue of BP's possible role in Megrahi's release has sparked outrage and a series of letters among U.S. senators, Secretary of State Clinton, Britain's Ambassador to the United States Nigel Sheinwald and British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
State Department spokesman Crowley said Hague sent Clinton a letter in recent days. "[H]e has found no basis to that suggestion that BP in any way influenced the Megrahi decision. Whatever lobbying that they [i.e., BP] did was within the context of the prisoner transfer agreement," he said.
BP acknowledges that it pressed the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, and that the energy giant had a $900 million oil exploration agreement with Libya.
The son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi says Libya pressed Britain for Megrahi's return during trade talks.
The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has announced that it will hold a public hearing on July 29 about the circumstances surrounding Megrahi's release. Lawmakers say that the Gulf of Mexico oil spill shows that BP is willing to put "profits ahead of people."
In a letter to U.S. lawmakers last week, British Ambassador Sheinwald wrote that there is no mechanism to compel a person released from prison on compassionate grounds to return to custody because he or she is living longer than expected.
The White House says the issue will likely come up when British Prime Minister David Cameron meets with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday here in Washington.