For Pan Am Flt 103 Families, Not a Happy Anniversary

Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was released by Scottish authorities one year ago today. Lockerbie families, including many in the U.S. are incensed.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    AP
    Undated Crown Office handout of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, who was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of murdering 270 people by blowing up Pan-Am flight 103 over Lockerbie 13 years earlier, but has always denied any involvement.

    Bert Ammerman never bought the argument that convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi was freed from prison out of compassion.

    The River Vale, N.J. man lost his brother Tom in the terrorist plot that took the lives of  270 men and women when a bomb blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland on December 21, 1988.

    The only person convicted in that attack was al-Megrahi. And despite receiving a life sentence, he was released from jail last year -- when Scottish authorities said he only had weeks or months to live.

    Now, a  year later, the convicted mastermind of the worst mid-air attack on a commercial jetliner in history --  is still alive.

    "The compassionate relief was that he was gonna serve the rest of his life in prison," said Ammerman. His thoughts on the terrorist's release? "It was despicable, it was ridiculous."

    Now, Ammerman is calling for Congressional hearings into whether the U.S. State Department was complicit in the bomber's early release. 

    "There's no question in my mind our government was involved in the release," said Ammerman.

    But U.S. Senators like Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey have said it's not American officials who are to blame, but British leaders, who allowed the Scottish officials to make the wrong call.

    "Scotland chose compassion for a terrorist over justice for the victims of terrorists," said Lautenberg, standing with his fellow Senator on the steps of the Federal courthouse in Newark.

    But Scotland insists it acted humanely, and showed an example by turning the other cheek.

    "It was a decision that was never going to satisfy everybody," said  Kenny MacAskill, Scotland's Justice Secretary. "It was my responsibility, I followed the rules and the laws of Scotland, I acted on the appropriate advice, and it's a decision I stand by."