US senators urged to back call for Lockerbie inquiry

US senators who want a hearing into the Lockerbie bomber's release were urged to sign a letter asking the Scottish Government to hold its own public inquiry into the tragedy.

The Justice for Megrahi Committee, a group of campaigners who believe Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi may have been the victim of a miscarriage of justice, wants Holyrood ministers to launch a probe into the full circumstances of the affair.

It already petitioned the UN General Assembly for an inquiry into the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988 which killed 270 people, as well as the trial at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands which saw the Libyan convicted of the atrocity.

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The group invited US senators Kirsten Gillibrand, John Kerry, Frank Lautenberg, Robert Menendez and Charles Schumer to sign the letter sent to the Scottish Government just over a week ago.

Senator Menendez, a Democrat, was due to chair the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing into the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

It was postponed after key witnesses including former Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill and First Minister Alex Salmond turned down requests to attend.

The letter, written to Mr Salmond and Mr MacAskill by Robert Forrester on behalf of the Justice for Megrahi committee, claimed that "current attacks from the USA and within the UK" led to suggestions that the Scottish Government might hold its own inquiry.

His letter added: "In our view, it is vital that the scope of any such inquiry ought also to encompass all aspects of the Lockerbie affair from December 1988 to the present day, including the investigation of the disaster and the Zeist trial itself.

"Clearly, it is our belief that Mr Al Megrahi may have been a victim of a gross miscarriage of justice and, in that regard, simply to focus on the questions arising from his release is of secondary import.

"It goes without saying, therefore, that we would be fully supportive of a full, public inquiry of this type should Edinburgh wish to open one."

Mr Forrester said the group's call for an inquiry was backed by Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the Lockerbie tragedy, as well as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Private Eye editor Ian Hislop and Professor Robert Black, who has been a high-profile critic of Megrahi's conviction.

Cancer-stricken Megrahi was released from Greenock jail on August 20 last year. He was given three months to live, but is living with his family in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The US Senate foreign relations committee wants to investigate the suspicions of some that oil giant BP may have had a hand in the release.