Yesterday, three freshmen lawmakers from New York circulated a bipartisan Dear Colleague letter urging fellow Members to sign onto their demand that the British Government immediately investigation the allegations surrounding the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Reps. Michael E. McMahon (D-Staten Island/ Brooklyn), Daniel B. Maffei (D-Syracuse) and Christopher J. Lee (R-Buffalo/Rochester) represent districts which suffered numerous losses when Pan AM Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988.
"Like most Americans, I was outraged by the release of the Lockerbie bomber, but the allegations that have recently surfaced really adds insult to injury for the families of the victims," said Rep. McMahon. "If it turns out that an ally of the US could have released this terrorist to further its own business opportunities, that country will not only have disgraced itself, it will have utterly disrespected the victims and their families for the most vile reasons. We deserve answers and the British Government needs to provide them immediately."
Rep. Maffei said: "Central New York lost dozens of our own in the bombing of Pan AM Flight 103, so our community felt a particularly acute pain when Scotland released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi last year. We are concerned that the UK may have released al-Megrahi because of lobbying from a private company. If that is the case, it is worse than an international embarrassment: it is an affront to justice, an insult to the victims who died in 1988 , and a slight to the families who have dealt with that unimaginable pain for more than 20 years."
"Megrahi's release was outrageous and an insult to the families of his victims," Rep. Lee said. "Western New Yorkers and all those who lost loved ones on Pan Am Flight 103 deserve a full investigation into Megrahi's release and the possibility that a business deal was behind it."
Recent reports have linked British Petroleum's (BP) interest in securing a $900 million oil-and-gas exploration deal off Libya's coast with al-Megrahi's inclusion in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya. These allegations are incredibly concerning and are further complicated by reports that al-Megrahi remains in notably good health a year after being released on compassionate grounds for his terminal illness.
Four of the 270 victims of the Lockerbie bombing came from Rep. McMahon's district, with the two youngest age twenty and the oldest age thirty-three. All four were traveling home for the holidays.
A devastating 40 victims of the bombing came from Rep. Maffei's district, including thirty-five Syracuse University students who were returning home after having studied abroad.
Similarly, Western New Yorkers in Rep. Lee's district who lost friends and family on Pan Am Flight 103 have reached out to him in recent days after the allegations about Megrahi's release surfaced.
The letter being circulated by the freshmen lawmakers requests not only for an investigation into allegations surrounding al-Megrahi's release to Libya, but also for British Government officials to address Congress on the matter.
The text of their letter can be found below:
July XX, 2010
The Right Honorable David Cameron, MP
10 Downing Street
Dear Prime Minister Cameron:
Congratulations on your election as Prime Minister and your first visit to the United States since taking office. Your visit so early in your term is a great sign of the strong and historic relationship between our two nations.
We write to express our concern about the alleged link between BP and the release to Libya of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. On behalf of the 189 Americans and all those who lost their lives in this tragedy, we urge your government to a conduct a full investigation into the details surrounding the conclusion of a prisoner-transfer agreement between the United Kingdom and Libya and Mr. al-Megrahi's subsequent release from a Scottish prison on "compassionate grounds." Further, we request that your government allow observers from the United States to participate in such an investigation.
As you know, correspondence between the Scottish government and the previous British government indicates that BP sought to secure a $900 million oil-and-gas exploration deal off Libya's coast in exchange for Mr. al-Megrahi's inclusion in a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya. Former British Justice Minister Jack Straw has also suggested that the BP deal was a consideration in his review of the case.
Moreover, the Scottish courts released Mr. al-Megrahi in part because of the understanding that he was in the late stages of a terminal form prostate cancer. However, it has been incredibly painful and disturbing for the families of the victims of this tragedy to watch Mr. al-Megrahi receive a hero's welcome in Libya, and to know that this convicted terrorist remains alive and well despite claims of his poor health.
We hope the United Kingdom can immediately commence a full investigation into these allegations, supported by U.S. observers, and facilitate an open dialogue with the United States Congress on the details surrounding the release of Mr. al-Megrahi. While we appreciate that this matter took place before you took office as Prime Minister, out of respect for the 270 innocent victims murdered in the Lockerbie attack, we urge you to take swift action on this issue.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
Michael E. McMahon
Member of Congress
Daniel B. Maffei
Member of Congress
Christopher J. Lee
Member of Congress