WASHINGTON — The United States said Monday it has asked Libya’s new rebel leadership to re-examine the case of the Libyan convicted of the 1988 plane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
The United States has long criticized the decision by Scottish authorities in August, 2009 to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi early on grounds that they believed he had only months to live because of prostate cancer.
He remains alive more than two years later in Tripoli, although his brother said he is drifting in and out of a coma.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland sounded hopeful that the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) would take another look at the case now that the rebels have overrun Moamer Kadhafi’s regime in the capital Tripoli.
“We asked the (NTC) to, as soon as it can, take a hard look at what it thinks ought to happen with Mr. Megrahi, and it is committed to do that,” Nuland told reporters.
“Well, this is a new day in Libya. This is a guy with blood on his hands, the lives of innocents. Libya itself under Kadhafi made a hero of this guy,” Nuland said.
“Presumably, a new, free, democratic Libya would have a different attitude towards a convicted terrorist.
“So it is in that spirit that the TNC will look at this case. I cannot speak to what decisions will be made,” she added.
“If you have a new governing authority in Libya, they can presumably review the terms under which their predecessors accepted his return to Libya,” said the spokeswoman.
When asked if Megrahi risked extradition, Mohammed al-Allagy, who handles the justice portfolio for the NTC, said earlier in Libya that legal norms prevent a person being judged twice for the same crime.
“Megrahi was judged and freed by a Scottish court based on his medical condition. Legal norms establish that a person cannot be tried twice for a single case,” Allagy told reporters.
“But we will let the next elected government handle this affair,” he added. The election of a new government could take up to two years.