Updated 08/20/2009 09:58 PM
Compassion or oil motivation for Megrahi’s release?
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NEW YORK STATE -- "Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed, but compassion be available," said Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.
But oil, not compassion, is what many say is behind Britain's motives in releasing Abdel Baset al Megrahi, the man found guilty for his role in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing that left 270 people, mostly Americans, dead.
UAlbany political science associate professor Victor Asal says it could be argued that Britain released Al Megrahi as a means to improve relations with Libya.
“Which gives them more access to Libyan oil. I'm not sure if that's the major factor here or not," Asal said.
In the days leading up to Al-Megrahi's release, there were reports that Britain was stepping up oil production in Libya. Meanwhile, Americans are condemning Britain's decision to release the terminally ill convicted terrorist.
"We thought it was a mistake. We are now in contact with the Libyan government. We want to make sure that if this transfer has taken place, that he is not welcomed back in some way, but under house arrest," said President Obama.
But he was welcomed back. His return celebrated.
Libyans see Al Megrahi's return as vindication.
"The media interpretation, not only in Libya, but in other parts of the Arab world, is the U.S. used this as a scapegoat," Asal said.
It was Libyan leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi's decision to hand over Al Megrahi and another suspect to British officials that started to repair its relationships with the West.
"The very administration that is fueling these parades and happiness is the very administration that agreed to these gentlemen going over there to be tried and then put in jail," said Asal.
But it wasn't until the second Bush administration and its war against terror that relations between Libya and the U.S. started to improve.
"Libya said it was no longer going to pursue a nuclear program and Libya made a lot of conciliatory gestures," Asal said.
Making oil available among them. Before that though, Libyans lived under heavy U.S and U.N. sanctions.
"You have people that have trouble going places,” Asal said. “You have people who have trouble getting access to things."
And while Americans may be outraged with Megrahi's release from Scotland and welcome in Libya, Asal says he doubts, in the end, the U.S. relationship with either will change for the worse.
"Three weeks from now, it's not going to have an impact," Asal said.
Many are now watching U.S. reaction closely. With an eye toward improving relations with the oil rich country, the American government has reopened an embassy in Libya's capitol city and the AP reports a delegation of U.S. senators, led by John McCain, met with Libyan leader Gadhafi last week.