Obama criticises Lockerbie release

  • 21 August 2009
  • From the section Politics
Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi
Hundreds turned out to welcome Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi

The release of the only man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, has caused outrage in the States.

American chat shows and news channels can't stop talking about it with many asking government officials in the UK and US, how could this happen.

US President Barack Obama is furious about it.

He said: "We thought it was a mistake. We're now in contact with the Libyan government and want to make sure he is not welcomed back in some way but instead should be under house arrest."

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was freed from prison on compassionate grounds by the Scottish government after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.

Megrahi was given a life sentence in 2001 for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which blew up over Lockerbie in 1988 killing 270 people.

Most of those who died, 189 in total, were American and Obama has criticised the decision to release Megrahi early.

US backlash

Hundreds of people were waiting in Libya to welcome Megrahi home as his plane landed in Tripoli - many of them waving flags.

Stephanie Bernstein's husband Michael was on the Pan Am flight and she doesn't agree with Megrahi's release.

She said: "He, as a convicted prisoner, should have served the rest of his sentence in jail.

"If we were talking about Bin Laden, or one of Bin Laden's henchmen in that jail, would you and I be having this discussion? I don't think so. So what is different about this man?"

She added: "I really quite frankly don't understand how the people of Scotland and the people of the UK, and the people of the United States, can rest with this."

Prime Minister Gordon Brown wrote a letter to Libya's leader, Moamer Kadhafi, urging his country to "act with sensitivity" when the Lockerbie bomber returned home.

The British government has condemned the welcome he got when he landed in Tripoli wearing a dark suit.

The PM has made it clear he had nothing to do with Megrahi's release and that it was all up to the authorities in Scotland.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has also spoken of the impact of Megrahi's arrival in Libya on the families of those killed in the bombing.

"Obviously the sight of a mass murderer getting a hero's welcome in Tripoli is deeply upsetting, deeply distressing," he said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has spent the past week pleading with Scottish authorities not to release Megrahi.

Chad Parker lives in New York. He remembers the day the Pan Am flight exploded over Lockerbie.

He told Newsbeat: "To think someone can do that to so many innocent people, its just sick. And now he's free? Makes you think there's no real justice in America, in the world."