British families of Lockerbie victims call on US senators to visit Scotland

By Ben Mcconville, AP
Friday, August 20, 2010

UK Lockerbie families call US senators to Scotland

EDINBURGH, Scotland — Some families of the British victims of the Lockerbie bombing have challenged four U.S. senators to speak to them about their take on the 1988 terror attack.

Although the American relatives of those who died in the attack have largely focused on the controversy surrounding the release of former Libyan agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the only man convicted of playing any role in the atrocity, many here in the U.K. harbor lingering doubts about his guilt — and want the U.S. to know it.

“The senators should not be asking why Mr. al-Megrahi was released, but why he was convicted in the first place,” said Rev. John Mosey, whose daughter Helga, 19, was among those who perished in the attack. “This is not about one man, but about the 270 people who died.”

Lawyers for al-Megrahi have long argued that the attack was actually the result of an Iranian-financed Palestinian plot, and that authorities in Britain and the United States tampered with evidence, disregarded witness statements and steered investigators toward the conclusion that Libya, not Iran, was to blame.

Libya accepted responsibility and pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing, the argument goes, as a quick and easy way to shake off its pariah status.

The theory remains a matter of debate in Scotland. Retired Detective Chief Superintendent Stuart Henderson, who helped link al-Megrahi to the bombing, recently told Scottish television that the idea that anyone would attempt to frame al-Megrahi was ridiculous.

Still, it does have some traction and Mosey and others have called for a public inquiry into the case.

U.S. families remain outraged at the decision to release al-Megrahi because he had terminal cancer. The decision cut al-Megrahi’s 27-year sentence short and allowed him to return to Libya to a hero’s welcome.

Friday marks the first full year of al-Megrahi’s freedom — despite the fact that doctors said his cancer gave him only three months to live.

Four Democratic U.S. senators — Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey — have called on Scotland’s government to release all medical records they hold on al-Megrahi. Scottish authorities have refused, citing patient confidentiality.

However, those involved in the decision have spoken out. In an interview with the AP earlier this week, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he stood by the decision to release the convicted bomber. And on Thursday a cancer specialist who advised Scotland’s government over the release defended the three-month assessment.

Consultant oncologist Grahame Howard, one of four advisers to the Scottish Prison Service on the health of Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, said it was “a fair reflection of the specialist advice available at the time.”

Mosey said that U.S. officials needed to change their focus.

“Instead of hounding the doctors and Scottish politicians in the case, I would like them to come over to speak to us, the U.K. families of Flight 103,” he said. “We are not in uniform agreement, but I think they need to hear our voices.

“We have not learned the truth about Lockerbie.”

Associated Press Writer David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

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