UK Ambassador Denies Lockerbie Bomber Was Released to Help BP Get Oil Deal With Libya

By Gregory

Jul 15, 2010 6:52pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports: The British Ambassador in Washington denied suggestions from a group of US senators this week that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted Lockerbie bomber who was released by the Scottish Executive on compassionate grounds last year, was set free in order to help British petroleum giant BP secure a $900 million oil exploration deal with Libya. “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,” Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald wrote today in a letter to Senators John Kerry D-MA, Kristen Gillibrand D-NY, Frank Lautenberg D-NJ, Robert Menendez D-NJ, and Chuck Schumer D-NY. “There was no link between those legitimate commercial activities and the Scottish Executive’s decision to release Megrahi,” Sheinwald added. The ambassador’s rebuttal comes the same day as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced it would hold hearings, chaired by Senator Menendez on July 29 to determine whether BP lobbied for al-Megrahi’s release in order to secure the offshore oil deal with Libya. Al-Megrahi was convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. The bombing killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. But last year al-Megrahi was freed from prison after a medical team said he had just three months to live, only for it to emerge later that the doctors were paid by the Libyan government, as the senators noted in a letter on Monday. Earlier this week, the four senators from New York and New Jersey, when the majority of American victims were from, sent a letters to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging her department to investigate any link between BP’s oil deal and the bomber’s release, as well as allegations that a doctor, whose prognosis that the bomber had but months to live, was paid by the Libyan government. “All of a sudden once Megrahi is released all the roadblocks to that oil deal are removed and lo and behold, the oil deal is finally approved,” Schumer said at a press conference yesterday on Capitol Hill. “If anyone thinks this is a coincidence, I have a bridge to sell them in Brooklyn. It is absurd.” Yesterday, BP acknowledged it had lobbied the British government on a prisoner transfer deal but denying that they had lobbied specifically for al-Megrahi’s release. “In late 2007 BP told the UK Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya. We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan Government of BP's exploration agreement,” a BP spokesman said in a statement but added that “BP was not involved in any such discussions about the release of Mr Al Megrahi.” In response today, Senator Schumer issued a statement saying “Who is BP kidding? For BP to press the British government on the prisoner exchange agreement was at best a wink-and-nod request for al-Megrahi to be freed.” Ambassador Sheinwald also denied claims that a doctor, allegedly paid by Libya whose prognosis showed al-Megrahi had only months to live, was the basis for the decision to release the convicted bomber. “He was released on compassionate grounds based on medical advice from other doctors that he had three months to live,” the ambassador wrote. ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe and Jim Sciutto contributed to this report.

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