LIBYA: U.S. officials call for extradition of Lockerbie bomber
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Politicians are already demanding Libya’s new rulers extradite convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi now that it appears his longtime ally Moammar Kadafi is being ousted.
Among those demanding Megrahi’s extradition to the U.S. for trial are Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.) as well as Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney.
“As a transitional government takes hold in Libya, it should seek to undo the injustice of Megrahi’s release by returning him to the jail cell where he belongs,’ Schumer said in a statement Monday.
“I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdel Basset Mohmed Ali Megrahi, so justice can finally be done,’ Romney said in a statement and reiterated on Fox News.
In Britain, several members of Parliament have called for Megrahi’s return to Greenock prison in Scotland, where he was held before his return to Libya.
Megrahi, who is suffering from prostate cancer, had been convicted by a panel of Scottish judges and imprisoned but was released on compassionate grounds in 2009 after serving eight years of a 27-year sentence for his involvement in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in December 1988. The attack killed all 259 passengers and crew, plus 11 people in the Scottish town of Lockerbie.
At the time of his release, Megrahi supposedly had three months to live. Two years later, he is still alive and was last known to be living in Tripoli. After Libya’s justice minister defected in February, the official said that Kadafi not only orchestrated Megrahi’s release, but he also ordered the bombing. Libya’s rebel government, the Transitional National Council, on Monday did not respond to calls for Megrahi’s detention. A representative has said that any decision about Megrahi’s future would have to wait until a new government is elected, which could take as many as two years.
“Megrahi was convicted in a Scottish court under Scottish law,” a spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office told CNN Monday. “He could be returned under the terms of his release, but this is a matter for the relevant judicial authorities and it is not something that the British government can interfere with.”
Officials at the East Renfrewshire council near Glasgow, Scotland, who have jurisdiction over Megrahi’s case, said they were trying to locate him.
‘Obviously the situation has changed in Tripoli since the weekend,’ George Barbour, a spokesman for the council, told the Associated Press, adding that the council wants to reach Megrahi soon. ‘It puts us in a position where we are looking to make sure that we can contact him in the same way we have over the past two years.’
Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of Tripoli on Monday after their swift advance on the capital raised the possibility of ending Kadafi’s 42-year regime.
The council monitors Megrahi through regular videoconferences. Barbour said there has been no breach of the conditions of Megrahi’s release.
Megrahi was reportedly seen last month in Tripoli at a pro-Kadafi rally.
The U.S. has no extradition treaty with Libya. However, there is a pending indictment against Megrahi in federal district court. A Justice Department official told CNN that the indictment stands and was not superseded by Megrahi’s conviction in Scotland. Justice Department officials told CNN that they remain committed to prosecuting anyone involved in the Lockerbie bombing, which is still an open investigation.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske
Video: Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi at a pro-Kadafi rally in Tripoli last month. Credit: YouTube