August 11, 2010 / 11:34 AM / 10 years ago

Scotland defends Lockerbie bomber's doctor

LONDON (Reuters) - Scottish authorities defended the doctor who said Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi had three months to live, after U.S. senators asked them to release the Libyan’s medical records.

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi is seen in his room at a hospital in Tripoli in this September 9, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Ismail Zetouny

The senators are probing the circumstances surrounding the release in August last year of Megrahi, convicted of the 1988 bombing of an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland.

Megrahi is still alive a year after Scottish authorities freed him on compassionate grounds. A medical report compiled by Andrew Fraser, the Scottish Prison Service’s director of health and care, said he had terminal prostate cancer and could die in three months.

Fraser was “a professional of unimpeachable integrity” who consulted a range of experts before reaching his prognosis, a Scottish government spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

Megrahi’s continued survival has sustained the controversy over the Scottish decision. Most of the 270 people killed in the bombing were Americans, and Megrahi’s release and triumphant homecoming in Libya provoked an outcry in the United States.

U.S. anger resurfaced recently after suggestions British energy giant BP Plc had lobbied Scotland for Megrahi’s release. BP and Scottish ministers have denied the accusations.

“Dr Fraser drew on expert advice from a number of cancer specialists in coming to his clinical assessment that a three month prognosis was a reasonable estimate for Mr Al-Megrahi — it was not based on the opinion of any one doctor,” the Scottish government spokeswoman said.

“These specialists included two consultant oncologists, two consultant urologists and a number of other specialists, including a palliative care team, and Mr Al-Megrahi’s primary care physician,” she said.

“In every regard, due and proper process was followed at every stage.”

Four senators wrote to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond on Tuesday asking the government to provide “full medical information” or to request Megrahi’s permission to release the information, if that was necessary.

They referred to recent news reports that suggested the three-month prognosis was based on the opinion of a single doctor, rather than a team of specialists who had been treating the convicted bomber.

The letter was signed by Senators Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

The Scottish government said it would reply to the letter “in due course.”

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee planned a hearing last month on Lockerbie, but postponed it after witnesses from Britain refused to appear, including BP’s former CEO Tony Hayward, former British Justice Minister Jack Straw and Scottish officials.

Editing by Peter Graff

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