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BP role in Lockerbie bomb case is queried

New York Times / July 16, 2010

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LONDON — Oil giant BP faced a new furor yesterday as it confirmed that it had lobbied the British government to conclude a prisoner-transfer agreement that the Libyan government wanted to secure the release of the only person convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland, which killed 270 people.

The acknowledgment came after US lawmakers, grappling with the controversy over the company’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill, called for an investigation of BP’s actions in the case of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi.

After an initial demand for an investigation Wednesday by four senators from New York and New Jersey, further calls for an inquiry by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee were made yesterday by Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats of California.

Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was released and allowed to return to Libya in August after doctors advised the Scottish government that he was likely to die within three months of advanced prostate cancer. But nearly a year later, he remains alive and free in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

BP’s statement yesterday repeated earlier acknowledgments that it had promoted the transfer agreement to protect a $900 million offshore oil-and-gas exploration deal off Libya’s Mediterranean coast. Jack Straw, the British justice minister at the time, admitted shortly after Megrahi was repatriated and freed that the BP deal was a consideration in the government’s review of his case.

In the end, Meghrabi’s sentence was commuted on humanitarian grounds. That freed him from serving any further prison time in Libya.

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