Sens to State Dept: Push UK on Lockerbie Bomber

Their own request denied, four U.S. senators are pressuring the State Department to push Britain to investigate the circumstances of last year's release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing.

Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was released from a Scottish prison in September after doctors said the cancer-stricken man had only three months to live. However, a doctor now says al-Megrahi could live for another decade.

Al-Megrahi had served eight years of a life sentence for the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of the Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew from London to New York. The bombing killed 270 people, most of them American.

Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey requested the investigation in a July 7 letter to the U.K.'s ambassador to the U.S.

"The decision by the Scottish government to reject our request to reinvestigate the decision to release this terrorist raises more suspicions as to whether there was a rotten deal between the United Kingdom and the Libya government," Schumer said Monday. "So we're calling on the State Department to put a full-court press on the United Kingdom to return this terrorist to prison."

In his response to the senators, British Ambassador Sir Nigel Sheinwald said due process was followed.

"The Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament conducted an inquiry into Mr. Megrahi's release earlier this year and concluded that the Scottish Executive's consideration of the case took place in accordance with normal good practice," Sheinwald said.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley could not say if Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had received the letter from the senators seeking the investigation but said the U.S. continues to watch the situation with Megrahi closely.

"We haven't changed our view. We think that the decision to release Mr. Megrahi last summer was a mistake," he told reporters in Washington.

"There was an expectation from last August that Mr. Megrahi had only a few months to live. We've been on the Megrahi watch since that time," Crowley said. "Every day that he lives as a free man, we think is an affront to the families of and victims of Pan Am 103."