[This is the headline over an article just published on the msnbc.com website based on an advance copy of the report to be issued today by US Senators Menendez, Lautenberg, Schumer and Gillibrand. It reads in part:]
Intense political pressures and "commercial warfare" waged by the regime of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi led to last year’s release of the "unrepentant terrorist" who blew up Pam Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, according to a new report prepared by four US senators.
The report is being released Tuesday, 22 years to the day after a terrorist bomb exploded aboard the Pan Am airliner, killing 270 people — including 189 Americans — in one of the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism prior to 9/11.
An advance copy of the report – titled Justice Undone: The Release of the Lockerbie Bomber — was provided to NBC News.
The report finds that senior officials under former British Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown quietly and repeatedly pressured Scottish authorities to release Abdel Baset Ali al-al-Megrahi, the former Libyan intelligence officer convicted of the bombing.
They did so in order to protect British business interests in Libya, including a $900 million BP oil deal that the Libyans had threatened to cut off, as well as a $165 million arms sale with a British defense firm that was signed the same month al-Megrahi was freed from prison, the report states.
“This was a case in which commercial and economic considerations trumped the message of our global fight against terrorism,” said Sen Bob Menendez, D-NJ, one of the four senators, who commissioned the report by a Senate investigator.
"God forbid there should be another terrorist attack. We have to make it impossible that anything like this injustice takes place again," he added.
The report also concludes that, in releasing Megrahi last year on the grounds that he was suffering from terminal prostate cancer and had only three months to live, Scottish authorities relied on a "false" and "flawed" medical prognosis that was possibly influenced by a doctor hired by the Libyan government. (Although there were recent reports that Megrahi was in a coma, that account has been disputed. As the Senate report notes, he remains alive, reportedly living in a luxury villa in Tripoli.)
The Senate report calls for a renewed investigation into Megrahi’s release by the State Department and a public apology by both the British and Scottish governments.
That request was rejected this week by both British and Scottish officials. "We totally reject their false interpretation," a Scottish government spokesperson said in an emailed response to NBC News. The decision to release Megrahi "was not based on political, economic or diplomatic considerations, but on the precepts of Scots law and nothing else."
[For those with a strong stomach, the full report by the four senators can be read here.
There is now a report on the Telegraph website which can be read here.]