| WASHINGTON, July 20
WASHINGTON, July 20 Last year's release of a
Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing and what role BP Plc
had in his case cast a shadow on British Prime Minister David
Cameron's talks with President Barack Obama on Tuesday.
BP (BP.L) (BP.N) has drawn close scrutiny from U.S.
politicians, angry over oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico
following the explosion and leak at one of the company's
Below are some questions and answers about the case.
WHO IS ABDEL BASSET AL-MEGRAHI?
Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was the
only person convicted of the Dec. 21, 1988 mid-air bombing of
Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270
people, most of them Americans.
Megrahi was found to have played a "prominent part in
planning and in perpetrating" the bombing of the New York to
London flight and was convicted of the murder of the 259 people
aboard and 11 people on the ground killed by falling debris.
Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment by a special
Scottish court in 2001, with a minimum jail term of 27 years.
Scotland released Megrahi in August, 2009 on compassionate
grounds after being advised that he was suffering terminal
prostate cancer and had as little as three months to live. He
returned to Tripoli and is still alive nearly a year later.
HOW IS MEGRAHI'S CASE RELATED TO BP PLC?
BP has said it lobbied the British government in late 2007
over a Prisoner Transfer Agreement between Britain and Libya
that could allow prisoners of either nation held by the other
to be sent home to serve out their sentences.
BP said it told the British government it was "concerned
about the slow progress" in negotiating the agreement. It also
has said it knew this could hurt a BP offshore oil drilling
deal that required approval by the Libyan government.
The oil company said it was not involved in any discussions
with the Scottish executive about releasing Megrahi. However,
Megrahi was the most obvious potential beneficiary of the
Prisoner Transfer Agreement that Libya and Britain eventually
WHAT IS THE UK-LIBYA PRISONER TRANSFER AGREEMENT?
The agreement, which entered into force on April 29, 2009,
allows for the possibility of Libyans incarcerated in Britain
to serve out their sentences in Libya and vice versa.
Such a transfer requires the consent of both countries.
Britain adopted the position that whether a prisoner in
Scottish custody would be transferred under the agreement was
solely a decision for the authorities of Scotland, which has
its own legal powers within the British political system.
There was some official discussion of excluding Megrahi
from the agreement, meaning that he would not be eligible for
transfer to Libya to complete his sentence.
While the Scottish government wanted him excluded, the
British government ultimately did not seek such an exception
for anyone convicted of the Lockerbie bombing.
A week after the Prisoner Transfer Agreement went into
effect, Libya asked that Megrahi be sent home to complete his
sentence, according to a British Foreign Office spokesperson.
The spokesperson, who declined to be identified, said the
prisoner transfer agreement covered Libyans other than Megrahi
and that there are now about 40 Libyans in prison in Britain
who could be eligible for such transfers.
Scottish authorities rejected Libya's request that Megrahi
be sent back to Libya under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement,
instead releasing him and sending him home on compassionate
WHY HAS MEGRAHI'S RELEASE BECOME SUCH A FOCUS NOW?
Four U.S. senators -- New Jersey's Frank Lautenberg and
Robert Menendez and New York's Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles
Schumer -- have written a series of letters to the U.S. and
British governments drawing attention to the case.
They are concerned in part because many of those killed in
the Lockerbie bombing lived in New York and New Jersey. Some
residents resented Megrahi's release because of his ill health
and are outraged that he is still alive and out of prison.
Their action coincides with a wave of American resentment
of the British oil giant after its ruptured well spilled oil
into the Gulf of Mexico for nearly three months.
The senators have demanded the British government and the
State Department investigate the circumstances under which
Megrahi was freed on compassionate grounds.
The British government has said that it had no plans to
re-examine the prisoner transfer agreement, noting that Megrahi
was released on compassionate grounds because of his ill health
under a separate legal process.
Cameron, who took office in May, has repeatedly said he
thought the decision to free Megrahi was wrong. He has asked
for a review of relevant British government documents to see if
more of them should be made public.
(Editing by Patricia Wilson and David Storey)