By Michael O'Brien
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) demanded on Monday that the new, emerging Libyan government extradite the convicted Lockerbie bomber to the United States.
Amid signs that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's government is close to collapse, the Republican presidential candidate demanded that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi be sent to the U.S. "so justice can finally be done."
"It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law," Romney said in as statement. "As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done."
Al-Megrahi was convicted in Scotland for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, a flight from New York to London. All victims of the bombing were killed, including 189 American citizens.
Al-Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released in mid-2009 on compassionate grounds because he was said to be suffering from terminal cancer. U.S. lawmakers were angered when al-Megrahi was greeted in Libya with a hero's welcome; he survives to this day.
The issue of extradition is particularly important to voters in the New York metro area, from which a number of the American victims of the Pan Am bombing had lived. Democrats and Republicans alike from the area have demanded that al-Megrahi be sent back to prison.
Romney is the only GOP presidential candidate to make mention of al-Megrahi in reaction to the tumult this weekend in Libya; the other candidates have been more muted. The issue is especially politically difficult for those Republicans in the race who had opposed the NATO-led intervention on behalf of anti-government insurgents that President Obama had supported earlier this year.
"The crumbling of Muammar Ghadafi's reign, a violent, repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration," said Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), the only other candidate to issue a statement as of early Monday afternoon.
"The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries," he said, making no mention of Obama in the statement.