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Embassy Row

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TERRORIST STILL LIVES

The British ambassador is defending the decision last year to release the Libyan terrorist serving a life sentence for the Lockerbie plane bombing, after four U.S. senators demanded an investigation into reports that Libya paid a British doctor to claim he had only three months to live.

"The decision to release [Abdelbaset al-]Megrahi on compassionate grounds was made by the Scottish executive [government] on the basis of the medical information available to them at the time," Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald wrote in his reply to a letter from New York Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles E. Schumer and New Jersey Democrats Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez.

The four senators complained about news reports that quoted Dr. Karol Sikora as saying that Libya paid him for the prognosis that Megrahi had only about three months to live because of his prostate cancer. Dr. Sikora told London's Sunday Times last week that Megrahi could live another 10 years.

Megrahi was the only man convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The explosion killed 270 people, including 189 Americans, many of whom were from New York and New Jersey. Scotland released Megrahi, who served only eight years of his life sentence, in August. He received a hero's welcome when he returned to Libya.

"The latest reports are extremely troubling," Mrs. Gillibrand said of the British news stories. "Megrahi should serve his full sentence and spend the rest of his days in prison."

Mr. Schumer added, "There is clear reason to believe that this terrorist was released based on false information about his health."

The senators also raised questions about reports of political and financial pressure on Britain to release Megrahi. BP, the same corporation responsible for the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, recently announced a major deal with Libya to drill for oil in its deep coastal waters. The deal could bring $20 billion in profits to BP, according to some reports. BP has admitted urging the British government to release Megrahi as early as 2007 to help close the deal with Libya.

Mr. Sheinwald dismissed any connection between the BP deal with Megrahi's release, saying that the Judiciary Committee of the Scottish Parliament concluded earlier this year that the decision was made "in accordance with normal good practice."

Mr. Lautenberg, however, remained suspicious and called for an investigation by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The prospect that oil contracts between BP and the government of Libya may have affected the release, as well as new questions about the veracity of medical reports detailing Mr. Megrahi's health at the time, are disturbing development that demand the attention of Congress," he said in a letter to the committee on Monday.

Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am 103, who strongly opposed Megrahi's release, said Monday, "All in all, it is a disgraceful affair, and it never seems to end."

FRONT PORCH ENVOY

They do things their own way on Martha's Vineyard. Take Theodore Sedgwick, who celebrated the Fourth of July being sworn in as the new U.S. ambassador to the Slovak Republic on the front porch of his summer home on the tony island off the coast of Massachusetts.

"I have to say it was a wonderful ceremony," Mr. Sedgwick told the Vineyard Gazette in an interview published Tuesday.

The Arlington, Va., newsletter publisher and political supporter of President Obama's almost missed the call from Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, who telephoned to inform him of the Senate's confirmation of his nomination.

He and his wife, Kate, had just settled in to the first night of their vacation on the island when the phone rang.

"Don't answer it. We know where our children are," she recalled saying.

Mr. Sedgwick took his oath of office from U.S. District Court Chief Judge Mark Wolf of the District of Massachusetts, an old friend and tennis partner.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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