The British Ambassador to the U.S. has sent a letter to Senator John Kerry, who heads the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, addressing the widening outrage over BP's role in the release of Pan Am Flight 103 bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. (Megrahi was released by Scotland on "compassionate" grounds because he was believed to be terminally ill, but after a year he's still living in luxury in Libya.) Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald starts off the letter by acknowledging that releasing Megrahi was a regrettable "mistake." But he keeps a stiff upper lip when it comes to BP's alleged involvement:
I am troubled by the claims made in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government. Both of these allegations are untrue. The British Government worked with British business to promote legitimate commercial interests with Libya, as we do with many other countries.
But there was no link between those legitimate commercial activities and the Scottish Executive's decision to release Megrahi. And as the Scottish Executive has stated, the prognosis issued by the doctor quoted recently in the press (Karol Sikora) did not feature in their consideration of Megrahi's case. He was released on compassionate grounds based on medical advice from other doctors that he had three months to live. This is common practice in the Scottish legal system.
And unfortunately for the outraged families of the 270 people who died as a result of the bombing, Ambassador Sheinwald says, "We have to accept that there is now no mechanism for requiring a person who has been released on compassionate grounds to be returned to prison if they have survived for longer than the prognosis at the time." Senator Chuck Schumer, one of several high-ranking politicians demanding an investigation into BP's role in Megrahi's release, tells the Daily News, "It is a hollow admission unless the British take the next logical step and urge Libya to return Megrahi to his prison cell." We're sure if the British just politely ask, Kadhafi will get right on that.