[This is the headline over a report from The Associated Press news agency on today's US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing. It reads in part:]
A State Department official said Wednesday that a review of government records found no evidence that oil company BP sought to secure the early release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison.
The release of Abdel Baset al-Megrahi last year outraged families of U.S. victims of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is investigating whether the British-based oil company had sought his freedom to help get a $900 million exploration agreement with Libya off the ground.
In prepared testimony, Nancy McEldowney, a principal deputy assistant secretary, told lawmakers that the State Department has "not identified any materials, beyond publicly available statements and correspondence, concerning attempts by BP or other companies to influence matters" related to al-Megrahi's release.
BP has acknowledged that it had urged the British government to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya, but stressed it didn't specify al-Megrahi's case. (...)
McEldowney noted that in 1998, the US and UK wrote a letter to the United Nations secretary general, outlining an agreement for al-Megrahi and another suspect, Amin Khalifa Fhimah, to be tried before a Scottish court established in the Netherlands. Al-Megrahi was convicted but Fhimah was acquitted. The letter stated, "If found guilty, the two accused will serve their sentence in the United Kingdom."
She said that back then, the US sought binding assurances that would happen, but the British countered that they couldn't legally bind the hands of future governments.
"They nonetheless assured us of their political commitment that, if convicted, al-Megrahi would remain in Scotland until the completion of his sentence," McEldowney said.
Bruce Swartz, deputy assistant attorney general, said that both the Justice and State departments stressed that al-Megrahi serve his full sentence in Scotland from the very beginning.
"This was one of the earliest issues raised by the United States in connection with the negotiations for a trial before a Scottish court in the Netherlands, and the United States continued to raise it following Megrahi's conviction and incarceration," he said in prepared testimony.
Wednesday's hearing was originally scheduled for July, but senators postponed it when they couldn't get the man they wanted to testify — outgoing BP CEO Tony Hayward. The company instead offered up a regional vice president for Europe.
In a letter to Sen Robert Menendez, D-NJ, this week, Hayward reiterated that BP had no involvement in al-Megrahi's release, and that "no BP witness nor document" could shed any light on the issue.
[A report on the hearing on the STV News website headlined "No evidence of Al-Megrahi deal" contains the following:]
A review of US Government records has found no evidence that oil company BP sought to secure the early release of convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, it has emerged.
US State Department official Nancy McEldowney confirmed that the Department had "not identified any materials, beyond publicly available statements and correspondence, concerning attempts by BP or other companies to influence matters" related to al-Megrahi's release.
She was speaking in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, which is investigating claims of a deal between BP and the Libyan and Scottish Governments to release Al-Megrahi in exchange for oil concessions. (...)
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "With the US State Department saying that there is no evidence whatever that BP played a role in the release of Al-Megrahi, the entire basis of the Senate Committee hearing has fallen away - we have been telling them that in letter after letter, and in a meeting, for many months.
“The Scottish Government has published everything we can - except where permission was withheld by the US and UK administrations - and all of the evidence demonstrates that the Justice Secretary's decisions to reject the Prisoner Transfer application and grant compassionate release were taken on judicial grounds alone - and not political, economic, diplomatic or any other factors.
"Scottish Ministers and officials are accountable to the Scottish Parliament, and the Parliament's Justice Committee held a full inquiry into this issue - which it decided not to re-open.
"Nonetheless, Scottish Ministers have given substantial help to the Senate Committee, and the Chairman of the Committee, Senator Kerry, described the Scottish Government's contribution as 'thoughtful and thorough'.”
[The report on the BBC News website contains the following:]
Senate committee chairman Robert Menendez also suggested that there had been confusion over whether or not Megrahi had received chemotherapy prior to release.
Megrahi had indicated, and Scottish medical records seemed to confirm, that he had not had chemotherapy, Mr Menendez said.
But the senator said evidence from an unnamed Scottish official suggested Megrahi had started chemotherapy in July 2009.
Mr Menendez said that the conflicting accounts suggested Scottish government documents had been changed. [Note by RB: if Sen Menendez actually said this, then he is an even greater clown and charlatan than I had supposed him to be.]
In its statement, the Scottish government said it was a matter of public record that Megrahi was not on chemotherapy treatment in Scotland at any point.
[A report on the website of The Financial Times headlined "US says Lockerbie bomber not dying" can be read here; and a report on the Mail website headlined "Lockerbie bomber's release 'manipulated' by Scottish government to say he was close to death claim US senators as BP also blasted over affair" can be read here.]