Vern Buchanan Calls for Pan Am Bomber to be Extradited from Libya

By: Kevin Derby | Posted: August 29, 2011 3:55 AM
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

This week, Florida Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demand the extradition of convicted terrorist Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, who led the bombing of Pan Am 103 in 1988. The airplane bombing took 270 lives.

The former head of security for a Libyan airlines company and three Scottish judges in a special court held in the Netherlands convicted Megrahi of the Pan Am bombing, which occurred over Lockerbie, Scotland, right before Christmas 1988.

With the Gadhafi government in Libya reeling, Buchanan wrote Clinton Thursday, urging her to demand Megrahi’s extradition to the United States. In 1991, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Megrahi for his role in the bombing. He was added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list in 1995. Negotiations for Megrahi’s extradition between the Gadhafi regime in Libya, the United States and the United Kingdom were stalled before a compromise was reached to hold the trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law.

More than two years ago, Megrahi was released from jail in Scotland after doctors maintained that he was dying and had only months to live. Since that time,  Megrahi has been in Libya, living in a villa owned by his family.

“I am writing to you to secure the extradition of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the convicted perpetrator of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing which claimed 270 lives, most of which were Americans. I believe as the Gadhafi regime falls in Libya, it is imperative you work with the new government to secure this criminal and have him brought to justice in the United States,” Buchanan wrote to Clinton. “He was freed on Aug. 20, 2009, after prison doctors claimed he had only three months to live. Two years later he is still alive, and last month he appeared at a televised rally in Tripoli alongside Moammar Gadhafi.

“For the past two years, al-Megrahi has served as a public relations tool for the Gadhafi regime. He has been paraded around as a hero. This is unacceptable,” Buchanan continued. “Al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence officer, should not have been released. He must be extradited to the United States to pay for the deaths of the 270 victims of Pan Am 103.”

Clinton opposed the release of Megrahi back in August 2009 but the State Department has been silent on whether it will push the new government in Libya to extradite him.

“We have continued to communicate our longstanding position to U.K. government officials and Scottish authorities that Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland,” said Clinton when he was released. “Today, we remember those whose lives were lost on Dec. 21, 1988, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live each day with the loss of their loved ones due to this heinous crime.”

Weighing in on rebel forces taking Tripoli from the Gadhafi government, Clinton expressed optimism on Thursday.

“The events in Libya this week have heartened the world. The situation remains fluid, but it is clear that the Gadhafi era is coming to an end, opening the way for a new era in Libya -- one of liberty, justice, and peace,” said Clinton. “We join the Libyan people in celebrating the courageous individuals who have stood up to a tyrant and defended their homes and communities against Gadhafi’s violence.”

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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