WASHINGTON (CN) – BP officials have been asked to testify at a Senate hearing on Scotland’s decision last year to release a man convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet that killed 270 people. Senators want company leaders to address concerns that BP negotiated Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi’s release in exchange for finalizing a $900 million offshore drilling deal in Libya.
Scottish authorities said the decision to free al-Megrahi last August was made on humanitarian and medical grounds, based on his terminal cancer, but the move raised questions about whether al-Megrahi was truly dying of cancer or if BP had orchestrated the release.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has asked BP officials and medical experts to testify at the July 29 hearing, the committee announced Thursday.
“I opposed Megrahi’s release on medical grounds last year as a travesty and the details that have emerged in recent days in the press have raised new concerns,” committee Chair Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., said in a statement. “The bombing of Pan Am 103 was an unforgivable act of terrorism in which 189 Americans, including nine from Massachusetts, lost their lives. On behalf of those victims and their families, we must get to the bottom of what led to the mistaken release of the only person ever convicted for that terrible crime.”
“As we’ve said many times, including throughout last year as Scottish authorities were making this decision, we felt the decision to release Mr. Megrahi was a mistake,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “We are unhappy that Mr. Megrahi sits in Libya today as a free man. But it was a decision by Scottish authorities to make.”
On Tuesday, Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asked the State Department to launch an investigation into allegations that BP helped secure al-Megrahi’s release. Crowley said the agency is considering the request.
The Scottish government has maintained that al-Megrahi’s release was not part of a prisoner transfer agreement between the British government and Libya in 2007 associated with the oil deal.
The State Department said negotiations between the United Kingdom and Libya on the prisoner transfer agreement were well known, and it is taking U.K. and Libyan officials for their word that Megrahi was not part of the agreement.