Lockerbie Victim's Brother: al-Megrahi's Death "Not the Last Chapter"

Bert Ammerman tells NBC 4 New York he still wants U.S. officials to continue investigating the Pan Am 103 blast

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Victim's family speaks one year later.

    The New Jersey brother of one of the Lockerbie bombing victims says he's "pleased" that Abdel Baset al-Megrahi has died, but wants officials to continue investigating the 1988 plane blast.

    "People always ask me, 'Is this the last chapter of Pan Am 103?'" said Bert Ammerman of River Vale, N.J., whose brother Tommy died in the blast. "Every time I think it is, something else happens. Al-Megrahi's death is not the last chapter of Pan Am 103."

    Al-Megrahi died of cancer, a relative said. A Libyan intelligence officer, he was convicted of blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town on Dec. 21, 1988. The bombing killed 270 people, many of them New York and New Jersey residents.

    Syracuse University was particularly hard hit: 35 students on the way home for Christmas break died in the bombing.

    Al-Megrahi was jailed in 2001. To the end, he insisted he had nothing to do with the bombing, and his 2009 release and return home on humanitarian grounds because of prostate cancer — a diagnosis where he was told he had three months to live — drew condemnation from relatives of the victims.

    "Al-Megrahi's release was when I was the most angry in this 24-year saga," Ammerman told NBC 4 New York. "That was a despicable act. It was an act of betrayal by our government and the British government... that is something that will never be forgiven."

    Ammerman said it was far more significant to him when Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi was killed last year.

    "On that day, for me, al-Megrahi became a minor actor," he said. "Him being released in 2009 was an act of betrayal by our government, the British government. But getting Gadhafi out of power and seeing him die is far more important than al-Megrahi."

    Gadhafi handed over al-Megrahi and a second suspect to Scottish authorities after years of punishing U.N. sanctions. In 2003, Gadhafi acknowledged responsibility, though not guilt, for the bombing and paid compensation of about $2.7 billion to victims' families.

    Ammerman said he now wants U.S. officials to press on in their investigation into the bombing and who exactly was involved.

    "I would love to meet with President Obama," he said. "I would like the opportunity now, 24 years later, to meet with him and say, 'It's in your hands now.'"

    Another New Jersey woman whose daughter was also killed in the bombing told The Associated Press al-Megrahi's death should open more opportunities in the investigation.

    "This can't be used as an excuse for ending anything," said Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter. "Instead, the United States and Great Britain should put even more pressure on Libya to interview people and get more specifics on the bombing and who may have been involved. There could be people higher up who should be indicted in this (case)."

    "He should have died in the Scottish prison," she added. "He should have been tried in the United States and faced capital punishment for his crimes."

    U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., who served on a presidential commission that investigated the bombing and played a role in securing compensation for the victims' families, said al-Megrahi "died with American blood on his hands and will always be remembered as a murderer."

    Lautenberg added that while al-Megrahi's death may bring some level of closure to the victims' families, "his misdeeds will never be forgotten and our pursuit of justice will continue."

    Sen. Charles Schumer says it's a "grave injustice'' that the Libyan man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 was allowed to die in freedom rather than behind bars.

    Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the death of al-Megrahi, along with that of Gadhafi, bring to a close the miscarriage of justice that brought so much pain to the families of Lockerbie victims.

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