WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The White House said Monday the United States consistently opposed releasing Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi from prison for medical reasons.
Responding to questions about a letter written by a U.S. Embassy official in London to Scottish officials eight days before al-Megrahi, suffering from prostate cancer, was released, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday the U.S. preference always was that the Lockerbie bomber not be released on humanitarian grounds.
Gibbs said the U.S. preference, as "enunciated in the president's call to (British) Prime Minister (Gordon) Brown, the preference enunciated by (deputy national security adviser) John Brennan and others who contacted the Scots directly was that al-Megrahi should not be released. We think that was the right decision ... we agree with that today, that's what we publicly stated prior to the release."
The embassy letter said that in the event the Scots decided to release al-Megrahi, "whatever you do, do not let him travel to Libya," Gibbs said, "Do not let him have a hero's welcome coming home. We also ... asked for an independent medical examination of (al-)Megrahi to ensure that the medical representation about having only three months to live was indeed supported independently. The preference enunciated by every level of this government was for him to continue to serve the sentence that he was serving until he died."
Scottish officials released him in August 2009. Al-Megrahi continues to live in Libya, despite claims of terminal illness.
Megrahi was convicted by a Scottish panel in 2001 of 270 counts of murder for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 and was sentenced to life imprisonment.