Senator attacks UK politicians over Lockerbie hearings

A string of high profile British witnesses who refused to testify at a US Senate hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber were today facing accusations of "stonewalling".

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee postponed tomorrow's hearing after key witnesses including former Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond turned down requests to attend.

Senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat who was due to chair the hearing, said "no witness of consequence has the courage" to step up and clear the air but insisted it will be held "in the near future".

He said: "It is utterly disappointing and I think pretty outrageous that none of these key witnesses will cooperate with our request to answer questions before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They have stonewalled."

The committee is investigating whether BP lobbied for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi's release to help get a 900 million US dollar exploration agreement with Libya off the ground.

BP acknowledged it urged the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, but stressed it did not specify his case.

Mr Menendez also attacked outgoing BP boss Tony Hayward for refusing to testify, saying: "It is apparently more important to BP and Mr Hayward to focus on his multi-million dollar golden parachute than to help answer serious lingering questions about whether the company advocated trading blood for oil."

He spoke after the UK Government said yesterday that "significant lessons" were learned in relations with Scotland after the row over the freeing of Megrahi.

In a response to a recent Scottish Affairs Select Committee report into relations between the two administrations, the Tory-Lib Dem coalition said it wants to build more "positive relations" with Edinburgh.

"We believe that there are significant lessons from this disagreement that have already been learnt," the UK Government response said.

"The Government's priority is to build more positive relations with the Scottish Government in all areas."

The SNP government clashed with the previous Labour administration at Westminster over a controversial "deal in the desert" agreed with Libya three years ago without Edinburgh's knowledge.

The Memorandum of Understanding paved the way for a prisoner transfer agreement (PTA), which Megrahi unsuccessfully applied for to Scottish ministers.

The response states: "In future the Government will consider carefully the appropriate balance between interests of confidentiality and the responsibility to keep the Scottish Government informed of international agreements made on its behalf.

"This includes consultation with the devolved administrations on matters relating to international relations which touch upon devolved matters."

Megrahi is the only person convicted of the 1988 bombing in which 270 people were killed. He was released on compassionate grounds last July after medical evidence indicated he only had three months live.

Calls for the decision to release Megrahi to be re-examined grew in volume in the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and revelations that BP lobbied for the PTA, amid concern that ditching it could damage an exploration deal it signed in Libya.

Foreign Secretary William Hague described Megrahi's release as "wrong and misguided" at the weekend.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the crash, said today that the US senators were looking at links between BP's commercial interest in Libya and the return of Megrahi.

"That's a question that if anyone from Britain could address, it would be people from Westminster," Dr Swire told BBC Radio Scotland.

"People have forgotten that there is no real link between his release and the so-called 'deal in the desert', because Kenny MacAskill and Alex Salmond didn't want to touch the prisoner transfer agreement which was set up in the deal in the desert."

Megrahi was eventually freed under compassionate release after medical evidence indicated the bomber had three months to live.

Dr Swire believes that Megrahi has been the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

"Are we not interested that the man who has been freed by Kenny MacAskill might, in fact, not be the man who was involved in causing the tragedy?" he said.

"That seems to me over-ridingly a more important question than the question of the minutiae of why he was freed.

"I can understand why they major in on those aspects of it, but I do think it's relatively peripheral."

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Infrastructure Analyst

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Infrastructure Ana...

Teacher of Learners with Special Needs - Nottingham

£130 - £161 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Teacher required to work w...

Science Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments