Lautenberg wants Senate hearing on bomber's release

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) on Wednesday called for Senate hearings and an investigation into the recent release of the convicted Pan Am Flight 103 bomber, questioning whether oil and commercial interests played a part in the decision.

In a letter to Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.) and ranking Republican Richard Lugar (Ind.), Lautenberg drew attention to recent media reports that the Scottish government may have released Abdel Basset al-Megrahi after serving eight years of his 27-year sentence because of a desire to improve commercial ties between Britain and Libya.

“Specifically, the committee should explore: whether commercial interests played a role in the decision to release Mr. Megrahi,” Lautenberg wrote.

Following his conviction in 2001, the former Libyan intelligence officer was ordered to serve his sentence in a Scottish prison as part of an international agreement. But the Scottish government approved al-Megrahi’s early “compassionate” release less than two weeks ago, citing the 57-year-old’s worsening case of terminal prostate cancer.

Al-Megrahi was moved to intensive care at a Libyan hospital on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported.

Recent media reports have arisen claiming Britain, in attempts to solidify oil contracts with Libya, may have pressured the Scottish government to release al-Magheri to Libya, which had lobbied for his release.

In an attempt to clear the air, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown declared Wednesday that there had been no underhanded motives on the government’s part for al-Megrahi’s release.

“There was no conspiracy, no coverup, no double-dealing, no deal on oil, no attempt to instruct Scottish ministers, no private assurances by me to [Libyan leader] Colonel [Muammar] Qaddafi,” said Brown to reporters in England.

Lautenberg was one of seven senators to call for al-Magheri's continued imprisonment nearly two weeks ago, and was joined by President Barack Obama and FBI director Robert Mueller.