Scots Won't Testify to Congress about Lockerbie Bomber's Release

US Lawmakers Wanted Scottish Officials To Testify on Terrorist Release

ByABC News
July 22, 2010, 1:03 PM

July 22, 2010 -- Top Scottish officials have declined an invitation to appear before a Senate panel investigating allegations of fraud and corporate pressure that may have led to the release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdulbaset al Megrahi, ABC News has learned.

In a letter sent yesterday, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., formally invited Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill to appear before a July 29 hearing on the topic, chaired by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez.

In response to Kerry's letter, Salmond denied the allegations levied by a group of U.S. senators and said his letters explaining his government's position would suffice.

"I believe that I have offered all assistance that could reasonably be expected of an overseas government and respectfully decline your invitation for Scottish ministers to appear at the hearing," Salmond wrote in a letter dated today.

Last August, Justice Minister MacAskill decided to release Megrahi and allow his return to Libya on compassionate grounds after it was believed he was suffering from cancer and had only months left to live. Justice decisions such as these are under the authority of the Scottish government. Nearly a year later Megrahi is still alive.

Sens. Menendez, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., Kirsten Gillibrand D-N.Y., and Frank Lautenberg D-N.J. sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last Monday questioning the quality and sourcing of the medical prognosis. A day later the senators sent another to Clinton urging her to investigate whether British oil giant BP pushed for al Megrahi's release in order to help secure a lucrative exploration and drilling deal in Libya.

In a separate letter to Kerry yesterday, Salmond denied any untoward medical advice led to Megrahi's release.

"There is no evidence that any of the doctors were placed under any outside influence whatsoever and what they provided was an objective view of AI-Megrahi's condition at that time," Salmond wrote, saying the medical advice came solely from Dr. Andrew Fraser, the Director of Health and Care in the Scottish Prison Service.