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British prime minister blasts handling of Lockerbie bomber case

By the CNN Wire Staff
Abdelbeset al Megrahi is the only person ever convicted over the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie.
Abdelbeset al Megrahi is the only person ever convicted over the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British authorities didn't pressure Scotland to release the Lockerbie bomber, report says
  • British officials did advise Libya on how to get him released, however
  • Prime minister calls the release of the bomber "a flawed decision"
  • Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi was convicted in the 1988 bombing
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London (CNN) -- The previous British government never exerted any pressure on Scottish officials to release convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, according to the newly released conclusion of an internal document review ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron.

It also notes, however, that British officials gave Libyan authorities advice on how to get Megrahi released. The decision to offer such advice was profoundly wrong, Cameron said Monday. The release of Megrahi was "a flawed decision," he told members of parliament.

Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 270, was released from a Scottish prison in 2009. Originally given a life sentence, he was released on grounds of compassion after being diagnosed with what was characterized as terminal cancer.

Megrahi is now living in Libya.

The report released Monday states that "at all times the former government was clear that any decision on Mr. Megrahi's release ... was one for the Scottish government alone to take. The documentation considered by the review demonstrates that they were clear on this in their internal deliberations and, crucially, in their contacts and exchanges with the Libyans."

It notes that former Prime Minister Gordon Brown made clear in a July 2009 meeting with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi that "the decision was solely a matter for Scottish ministers and (the British government) could not interfere."

The report also notes, however, that "once Mr. Megrahi had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in September 2008, (the British government's) policy was based upon an assessment that U.K. interests would be damaged if Mr. Megrahi were to die in a U.K. jail."

A policy was "therefore progressively developed that (the British government) should do all it could ... to facilitate an appeal by the Libyans to the Scottish government for Mr. Megrahi's transfer."

Scotland has some control over its own affairs, including justice. The British have consistently denied that commercial considerations -- such as oil giant BP's desire to drill in Libya -- played a role in Megrahi's release.

U.S. officials have been sharply critical of the decision to release Megrahi since it was first announced. "Our position throughout this process was public and very clear," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. "We did not think in any way, shape, or form that his release was in anybody's interest. We continue to believe that."

New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, a leading congressional critic of Megrahi's release, used the announcement of the new report to renew his demand for an independent investigation of the case.

There was "a combination of interests" that led to Megrahi's release, Menendez told reporters. It "stretches the imagination" to believe business concerns didn't play a role in the decision. "It is important to get to the totality of the truth."

 
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