Nearly two years after his release on "compassionate grounds" by Scottish authorities, the convicted bomber of Pan Am flight 103 from JFK that killed 270 people, 103 of them Americans, in 1988 was seen on Libyan state television yesterday being introduced at a tribal rally. The announcer in the video declares that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was arrested because "half the world conspired against" him, and BBC reports that the broadcast yesterday was "live." Megrahi's appearance reflects poorly upon the Scottish authorities, who released Megrahi because Libya threatened to withold contracts to British-based oil giant BP worth "hundreds of millions of dollars."
At the time of Megrahi's release in August of 2009, he was "facing his final days," according to the Scots, who estimated that he had 90 days left to live before succumbing to prostate cancer. However, a Senate report [pdf] conducted by Senators Menendez and Lautenberg from New Jersey, and Schumer and Gillibrand in December of last year concluded that Megrahi's medical specialists were never consulted about his release, and that authorities buckled under Libya's threat of "commercial warfare."
At the time, the Scottish government said of the report, "it is an incorrect and inaccurate rehash by four senators of material that has been in the public domain for many months, and we entirely reject their false interpretation." But the leader of the Scottish Labour party called Megrahi's appearance "embarrassing," while a Scottish Conservative tells the Times: "The last thing relatives of the 270 people murdered by the Lockerbie bomber need to see is the sight of him alive and well and free, almost two years after he was released."
[Update] New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, who spearheaded the Senate report that the Lockerbie bomber was released for commercial reasons without any input from his medical specialists, has released a statement:
"Seeing Abdelbaset al-Megrahi at a Qaddafi rally 20 months after Scottish authorities released him under the pretense that he had only 3 months to live, is another chapter in a sad story that saw governments put the interests of oil companies ahead of justice,” said Senator Menendez. “I will continue to work to ensure that any new government in Libya cooperates with efforts to extradite Mr. al-Megrahi to the United States to pay for his crimes and also cooperates with any ongoing investigations into the Pan Am bombing or other terror attacks against Americans by Qaddafi.
"It is gratifying, however, to see that the Cameron government now acknowledges that the medical diagnosis that formed the basis for Mr. al-Megrahi’s release was ‘pretty much worthless’ and that pressure from the UK government on the Scottish government was a factor in the convicted terrorist being let go,” Menendez continued.
Until now, the UK government has refused to acknowledge their role in pressuring the Scottish government to release Megrahi. British, Scottish and BP officials had refused to participate in a hearing the Senator chaired on the subject in July 2010.