Daily Israel Report

Lockerbie Bomber's Lifespan Sparks Scandal

The early release of the Lockerbie bomber leads to suspicions of corruption involving Blair, Qaddafi, and British oil.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 7/18/2010, 7:08 PM / Last Update: 7/18/2010, 7:52 PM

The early release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi has led to suspicions of corruption involving former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Libyan leader Moammer Qaddafi, and the British Petroleum oil company.

British Petroleum has been accused of playing a role in Megrahi's release in order to protect its Libyan oil contracts.

The United States Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a meeting on BP's alleged involvement in the release later in July. BP has faced trouble in the US in recent weeks over a huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

British Prime Minister David Cameron plans to meet this week with US President Barack Obama. Cameron is expected to deny that BP's oil contracts played a role in the decision to release Megrahi.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday, saying, “There is no evidence that corroborates in any way the allegations of BP involvement in the Scottish executive's decision to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds in 2009, nor any suggestion that the Scottish executive decided to release Megrahi in order to facilitate oil deals for BP.”

Megrahi was convicted in the 1988 bombing of a United States Pan Am jet over Lockerbie in which 270 people were murdered. He was released from prison in 2009 on "compassionate grounds" after a doctor testified that he had fewer than three months to live.

Despite the prognosis Megrahi remains alive almost a year after his release. Professor Karol Sikora, who was paid by Libya to estimate Megrahi's date of death, told the Sunday Times earlier this month that “there was a fifty percent chance that he would die in three months, but there was also a fifty percent chance that he would live longer.”

Megrahi “could live for 10 years, 20 years,” Sikora said. However, he said, such an outcome would be “very unusual.”

The revelation that Megrahi was not in fact at death's door when he was released angered United States authorities, as well as the friends and families of victims in America and Britain.

Critics suggest that the British government was eager to release Megrahi even knowing that he did not qualify for early release on compassionate grounds, in order to avoid upsetting the Libyan regime. In September 2009, shortly after the release, senior businessmen told the Sunday Telegraph that if Megrahi had died in jail, it may have jeopardized the opening of a London branch of the Libyan Investment Authority, which had an estimated $136 billion to invest.

The scandal has also drawn attention to the behavior of former  British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who now serves as Envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the “Quartet” - the US, the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia.

Blair is rumored to be acting as an adviser to Qaddafi. He was behind the “deal in the desert” in 2007 that opened Libya to foreign trade, and recently flew to Libya for clandestine talks.

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has suggested that Blair decided to include Megrahi in a prisoner transfer during the “deal in the desert,” and that the “compassionate grounds” release was an excuse.