- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SENATOR OUTRAGED

In a blistering letter to the British ambassador, an angry U.S. senator from Maryland denounced the Scottish government’s decision to release the man convicted of masterminding the 1988 bombing of an American airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

“I am outraged and deeply disappointed,” Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski wrote to Ambassador Nigel Sheinwald.

The Maryland Democrat said eight of her constituents were among 259 passengers and crew members aboard Pan Am Flight 103 killed in the explosion planned by Libyan terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi. Eleven residents of Lockerbie were killed on the ground.

Miss Mikulski listed the Maryland victims — Michael Bernstein, Jay Kingham, Karen Noonan, Ann Lindsey Otenasek, Anita Reeves, Louise Rogers, George Williams and Miriam Wolf — and added, “They were sons, daughters, fathers. They were just trying to get home to their families.”

Miss Mikulski added, “As their United States senator, I pledged to their families that we would never forget them and that we would ensure justice was served.”

She condemned Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill, who approved al-Megrahi’s release, for his “appalling disregard for the frustration and grief” it caused to the families of the victims.

Mr. MacAskill has repeatedly defended his decision on the grounds of compassion because he said al-Megrahi is dying from cancer and has only months to live.

“This was my decision, and my decision alone,” he said last month.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has also insisted that the decision was made by Scotland under its autonomous powers over its legal system. However, critics suspect al-Megrahi was released to secure oil contracts with Libya.

Miss Mikulski dismissed the claims of compassion, saying, “The decision to allow Megrahi to die among his family while he stole that very right from 270 victims he murdered is a grave injustice.”

Miss Mikulski said she was appalled by the “hero’s welcome” al-Megrahi received when he landed in Libya on Aug. 21.

“Images of his return to cheering crowds in Libya have caused deep anguish and pain among the families of the Lockerbie victims,” she said.

Miss Mikulski wrote her letter on Aug. 24, but it was released over the weekend by Frank Duggan, president of the Victims of Pan Am Flight 103, which represents the families of the Americans killed in the bombing.

TAXING TOURISTS

The European Union ambassador is criticizing a congressional bill that would impose a $10 fee on many foreign visitors by mocking claims that the money would be used to promote tourism.

“Only in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ could a penalty be seen as promoting the activity on which it is imposed,” said Ambassador John Bruton, writing on the EU Web site, EurUnion.org.

“Europeans are alarmed at the proposals in Congress to charge them an additional $10 on top of all the other costs and requirements they must meet just for the privilege of coming to the U.S. to spend their [money] as tourists.”

Mr. Bruton said a proposed amendment to the Travel Promotion Act would increase the fee to $20 per passenger. The bill would apply to citizens of the 35 countries in the Visa Waiver Program, which allows for visa-free travel to the United States. Twenty-nine European nations are in the program.

He added that the fee could be seen as a “visa in disguise” and warned of possible European retaliation.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Delahunt, Massachusetts Democrat, dismissed the complaints over what he called a “nominal fee.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@ washingtontimes.com.

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