Senate to Probe BP-Libya Deal


The Senate Foreign Relations Committee says it will probe the role BP played in freeing convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. Megrahi, the only person who has been convicted of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing that killed 270 people in 1988, was released last August from a Scottish prison. It has since come to light that BP may have lobbied for his release in order to secure a $900 million deal to drill in the Gulf of Sidra.

BP has admitted that it lobbied the British government in late 2007 on a prisoner transfer agreement. “BP told the UK government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya,” the company said in a statement yesterday. “We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan government of BP’s exploration agreement.” The oil giant says it was not involved in discussions about Megrahi specifically, however.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced late yesterday that the panel will hold a hearing on the issue on July 29. “I opposed Megrahi’s release on medical grounds last year as a travesty and the details that have emerged in recent days in the press have raised new concerns,” said Kerry in a statement. “On behalf of those victims and their families, we must get to the bottom of what led to the mistaken release of the only person ever convicted for that terrible crime.” New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez will chair the hearing.

Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison in 2001, but was released last August after a Scottish court granted him freedom on compassionate grounds. Doctors told the court that he was facing terminal prostate cancer and only had three months to live; now one of those doctors says he was paid by the Libyan government to make that determination, and he could live another ten years as a free man.

Britain’s ambassador to Washington, Nigel Sheinwald, called the decision to release al-Megrahi “a mistake” in a statement yesterday. But he added: “Claims in the press that Megrahi was released because of an oil deal involving BP, and that the medical evidence used by the Scottish Executive supporting his release was paid for by the Libyan government, are not true.”

Sheinwald emphasized that the new British administration disagreed with the Lockerbie bomber’s release, but there is no process in place for returning him to prison. “We have to accept that the release licence does not provide a mechanism for a person who has been released on compassionate grounds to be returned to prison if they have survived for longer than the period diagnosed by the relevant medical authorities,” said Sheinwald.

Four Democratic senators also asked the State Department to conduct its own investigation into the case. Andy Laine, a spokesman for State, said Friday that they are reviewing the letter and will respond to the senators’ request.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.