Does Barack Obama care that the terrorist convicted only a decade ago of killing 189 Americans is reportedly running around Libya?
The Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, was tried in the U.K. and then released two years ago -- but only on "compassionate grounds" because he was supposed to die within three months. Disappointingly, he failed to achieve his full potential in that regard and is instead reportedly fit enough nowadays to keep Gadhafi company while the tyrant plays hide-and-seek. Why doesn't Obama show a little leadership and call for Megrahi to be tried in America for the bombing? There's no statute of limitations for murder, and Obama has made a big deal about trying terror suspects in civilian federal court rather than via military commission. Well, here's an easy one.
Still, I suppose there are a million reasons why Obama might not want to bother: It's been more than 20 years since the event, and Megrahi already did more than eight years in prison for the crime. But by that reasoning, why not free every death row convict in San Quentin?
One could also argue that Scotland set him free, so he must be harmless enough. Except that he was presumed to have a foot already in the grave and the other on a banana peel. That's why he was set free -- not because he displayed any remorse or planned on drastically turning his life around for the better. He's still hanging out with Gadhafi, who probably isn't the best influence, especially considering that the former Libyan justice minister and leader of the anti-Gadhafi National Transition Council, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, claims to have concrete proof that Gadhafi ordered the Lockerbie bombing.
The fact that a U.S. Senate committee last year attempted to probe why, exactly, Megrahi was released and is still very much alive should be reason enough to put the whole affair back in a courtroom.
A lack of cooperation by U.K. officials resulted in the inquiry's cancellation. As far as that's concerned, here are five indisputable facts:
1. On May 29, 2007, British Petroleum signed a $900 million oil exploration and production deal with Libya.
2. In late 2007, British Petroleum actively pressured the British government to sign a Prison Transfer Agreement (PTA) with Libya, citing concern that Libya would cut its nascent oil-exploration contract if the treaty wasn't ratified.
3. A confidential cable out of the American embassy in Tripoli, from Ambassador Gene Cretz and dated April 29, 2009 -- found while I was digging through the massive WikiLeaks stash this week -- contains exactly two pieces of information: first, that the PTA was signed on this day; second, that "British Embassy contacts anticipate that the (Government of Libya) will not submit a formal request to transfer convicted Pan Am 103 bomber Abdelbasset al-Megrahi to Libya under the PTA until next week at the earliest."
4. Megrahi was released from prison by Scottish authorities on August 20, 2009, with medical experts claiming that he'd die from prostate cancer within three months.
5. Two years later, Megrahi's still kickin'.
Far be it from me to speculate and draw definitive links between these facts, particularly in a legally actionable way, but perhaps this might provide Obama with enough of an impetus to pursue a closer look at the whole affair by getting the only person so far named responsible into an American courtroom.
One might ask how he could feasibly do that -- should Megrahi ultimately be found in Libya -- short of extraordinary rendition, which is basically kidnapping someone and taking them to a foreign country. Now this is where Obama could prove why he deserves that Nobel Peace Prize he won before ever doing anything: While America doesn't currently have an extradition treaty with Libya, Obama could negotiate one with the new government as a test of goodwill, leveraging gratitude for America's aid in the nation's liberation.
If a new Libyan government can't hand over a convicted terrorist to make the final several years of his "last three months" of life the most judicially intriguing yet, then it doesn't bode well for this budding friendship.
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