Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, in white, greets Lockerbie bomber Abdulbaset al-Megrahi upon his return to Libya in Aug. 2009. (AFP/Getty)Sen. Charles Schumer, the influential New York Democrat, is calling on the State Department to suspend aid to Libya's new Western-backed rebel government unless it agrees to re-imprison the Libyan man convicted for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
"If the new Libyan government continues to shield this convicted terrorist from justice, then they should not get one more cent of support from the United States," Schumer said in press release Wednesday. The release was timed to accompany a separate letter from Schumer to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spelling out his demands.
"We put American lives and money on the line to help the Libyan people secure their freedom," Schumer continued. "It's time the Libyan government lives up to its commitment to create a free and accountable society by handing over al-Megrahi so that justice can finally be done."
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence official from a prominent Libyan tribe, was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 2001 for his role in the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 259 passengers, many from New York and New Jersey, and 11 people on the ground. But two years ago, a Scottish prison board released Megrahi, having determined he was suffering from terminal cancer and had only three months to live. When Megrahi flew back to Libya in August 2009, he was given a hero's welcome and greeted personally by Gadhafi's son Seif al-Islam. The incident was, as intended, deeply humiliating to American and British officials.
And as Megrahi has gone on to long outlive his three-month diagnosis, questions about his suspicious release have caused unusual friction in normally placid American-British relations. Last year, American lawmakers pressed for an investigation into the role that British business interests may have played in Megrahi's release. (One key target of inquiry was troubled oil giant BP, which was negotiating for energy exploration rights in Libya around the time of Megrahi's release.) The British government has strongly denied such insinuations, pointing out the independence of Scotland's judiciary, and the investigations have gone nowhere.
So far, at least, the fall of Gadhafi's government doesn't promise to clear up any of the confusion surrounding the case.Read More »from Schumer: Halt funds to Libya until Lockerbie bomber jailed