Scotland’s Release of Pan Am 103 Bomber Disappointing, U.S. Says

August 20, 2009

The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killed 270 people, including 189 Americans and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.
The 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 killed 270 people, including 189 Americans and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.

The Obama administration says it is deeply disappointed by the decision of the Scottish Executive to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, the only individual convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan American World Airways Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

In an August 20 statement, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton remembered the 270 individuals who were killed in the attack, including 189 Americans. “We extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime,” she said.

The secretary said she and other administration officials “have continued to communicate our long-standing position to U.K. government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland.”

In a separate statement, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said August 20 that the United States “deeply regrets” the decision to release Megrahi from prison, and he extended sympathies to the families of the victims.

“We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever,” Gibbs said.

According to the White House statement, Secretary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, White House and other U.S. government officials have had “extensive contacts with their counterparts in Scotland and in the United Kingdom to emphasize that we do not support the release of Megrahi.”

Scottish officials freed Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he has terminal prostate cancer and doctors have given him less than three months to live, according to news reports.

Pan Am Flight 103 was on a scheduled flight from London to New York on December 21, 1988, when a bomb exploded in a suitcase onboard the aircraft. All of the passengers and flight crew were killed, either in the air or when the plane crashed in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie. The crash also killed 11 Lockerbie residents.

Megrahi was implicated in the attack based on evidence connecting him to the suitcase that held the bomb. He was also identified as a Libyan intelligence officer.

In 2003, Libya accepted responsibility for the actions of its officials in the attack and agreed to pay compensation to the families of victims.

Libya initially refused to turn over Megrahi and another Libyan suspect to Scottish justice officials for trial, but complied in 1999. Megrahi was convicted in 2001 and his sentence was upheld on appeal in 2002.

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