Senators want Lockerbie bomber kept behind bars

Seven senators called on the Scottish government on Monday to keep Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi behind bars for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 following recent media reports that he may be released.

Following his conviction in 2001, al-Megrahi — a former Libyan intelligence officer — was sentenced to serve 27 years in a Scottish prison for his role in the bombing of the transatlantic flight that killed 270 people — including 180 Americans on board and 11 Scots on the ground in southern Scotland.

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“Our international agreement called for his sentence to be served in Scotland and we believe strongly there should be no deviation from this sentence,” said Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kristen Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in their letter.

The letter, which calls the bombing “horrific” and “heinous,” was sent to Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill after recent media reports have speculated that the Scottish government is set to consider al-Megrahi’s early release or transfer back to a prison in his homeland of Libya.

Al-Megrahi is expected to drop his appeal this week, which legally would allow the Scottish government, if it desired, to take action on his imprisonment status.

MacAskill has met with both al-Megrahi and the families of the victims in recent weeks. The meetings have further fueled reports that MacAskill may be considering the Libyan government’s calls for al-Megrahi’s release.

Al-Megrahi, 57, has terminal prostate cancer and has used his health as a reason in pleas for his own “compassionate” release.

The senators’ letter made the case for his continued imprisonment by comparing the bombing to more recent terrorist attacks on Americans.

“Until the tragic events of September 11, 2001, no terrorist act had killed more American civilians,” said the letter of the bombing of the flight, which was headed from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport with a majority of Americans on board.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has also recently called on MacAskill to continue al-Megrahi’s imprisonment until his sentence has been completed.

MacAskill’s aides said no decision has been made regarding al-Megrahi’s release, continued imprisonment, or transfer, according to The Associated Press.