LONDON – LONDON (AP) — Scottish lawmakers demanded Tuesday that their government publish full details of the medical advice that led to the release from prison of the Lockerbie bomber almost a year ago.
Opposition Labour Party legislators called for the prognosis given on Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's health before he was freed on compassionate grounds — and the names of the doctors who made the assessment — to be made public.
The decision to release al-Megrahi from a Scottish prison has stirred anger in the United States and prompted U.S. senators to begin an investigation into the decision.
Al-Megrahi is the only person to have been convicted for the 1988 bombing of a jetliner above the small Scottish town of Lockerbie, which killed 259 people — mostly Americans — on the plane and 11 on the ground.
He was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years in a Scottish prison, but in 2008 he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He was freed to return home to Libya on August 20 last year.
James Kelly, community safety spokesman for the Labour Party in Scotland, said the Scottish government's justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, must disclose the medical advice that led to al-Megrahi being freed.
"It's time that Kenny MacAskill released the full facts surrounding the medical evidence of al-Megrahi's release," he said in a statement.
Kelly said some recent medical studies contradict the claim made when al-Megrahi was released last August that he might only survive for three months or so.
"We know that al-Megrahi intended to start chemotherapy — he indicated that in his application for release," Kelly said. "It's now time for the full facts to come out."
MacAskill defended the decision in a documentary on the case broadcast Monday night in Scotland, saying he had acted appropriately.
"I authorized it. I did so in good faith and I believe everybody who's been involved in this has also acted in good faith. It was my responsibility and I stand by my actions," MacAskill told the Scottish Television documentary, "The Lockerbie Bomber: Sent Home to Die."
He likened claims that oil giant BP pressured Scotland to free al-Megrahi — so it could win access to Libyan oil reserves — to conspiracy theories about Elvis Presley.
"There's a veritable industry out there, as there is about whether Elvis Presley is alive and working in some chip shop in Fife," he told the program.
Scotland has had a separate government with responsibility for some decision-making and local taxes since 1999. However, the British government in London controls all policy effecting the entire U.K., foreign policy and defense.
On Sunday, the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland defended al-Megrahi's release, saying the Scottish justice system had a proudly held "culture of compassion."
"On the other hand, there still exists in many parts of the U.S., if not nationally, an attitude towards the concept of justice which can only be described as a 'culture of vengeance'," Cardinal Keith O'Brien wrote in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.
He criticized the decision of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to investigate the release. Both the Scottish and British governments have declined requests to send government ministers to a testify about the case.
"I would rather live in a country where justice is tempered by mercy than exist in one where vengeance and retribution are the norm," O'Brien wrote.
In the United States, lawmakers have pushed for more disclosure of information in the al-Megrahi's case.
Four Democratic senators — Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer of New York and Bob Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey — sent a letter Tuesday to Scottish First Secretary Alex Salmond asking that al-Megrahi's full medical records be disclosed.
"Independent examination of Mr. al-Megrahi's complete medical record is necessary in order to understand the circumstances surrounding his compassionate release," the senators wrote. "A more complete medical record may help us understand exactly what Mr. al-Megrahi' treatment options were and thereby help clarify questions about his prognosis."
On Friday, the four senators sent a letter to British Foreign Secretary William Hague contending that the facts they have gathered "leave a strong public impression that trade interests won out over justice."