In deciding whether to release Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, the Scottish official in charge of the case did not consult Al-Megrahi's cancer specialists, according to two damning reports in the Wall Street Journal today. Megrahi won a "compassionate release" in August 2009 because of a medical report that predicted that he'd be dead in three months from prostate cancer. A year later, he lives like a hero in his home country of Libya, and the Journal's exposé sheds new, galling light on how he escaped his life sentence.
According to the Journal, there is no evidence that any of Megrahi's specialists from the U.K. National Health Service—two urologists and two oncologists—gave or signed off on that three-month prognosis, or were consulted by Andrew Fraser, the doctor who administers Scotland's prison health service. Instead, Dr. Fraser's report [pdf] relied on other unidentified physicians, particularly an overworked, part-time general practitioner at Scotland's Greenock Prison.
Also troubling: In his application for compassionate release, Megrahi said he was planning to begin chemotherapy. But prostate cancer experts say you don't start chemo when you've got three months to live. For patients like Megrahi, the median life expectancy from the start of chemotherapy is 19.2 months, according to a recent study. (Megrahi is currently undergoing chemotherapy in Libya.) "Anyone who deals with a lot of patients in this situation would raise their eyebrows," Dr. Kirby, director of the Prostate Centre in London, tells the Journal.
Dr. Fraser and Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill are not commenting, and Scotland is refusing to release specific medical information about Megrahi that would let the public see what information Dr. Fraser had before him. Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), who is leading a Foreign Relations Committee investigation into the release, is calling for the release of those documents, which Scotland initially agreed to release before backpedaling. U.S. officials are also investigating what role BP played in Megrahi's release. Though the petroleum giant has admitted to lobbying for a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, the company claims it did not push Scotland specifically to release Megrahi.
But BP knew full well that winning Megrahi's release was a top priority for Libya, which awarded the company a lucrative drilling contract after he returned home. Libyan officials held many meetings with Scottish officials demanding Megrahi be let out, and on one occasion Libyan foreign ministry official Abdul Ati Al-Obeidi warned that if Megrahi died in prison, it would be a "major problem," detrimental to U.K.-Libya relations.