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Opinion

Another blot on BP: Did it help free terrorist?

Some things just stink. Like the possibility that BP had a hand in securing the get-out-of-jail-free card for Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi. The British officials now say his early release was a mistake.

Al-Megrahi was the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270, including 189 Americans. He was supposed to be dead by now. That's how his release last August was justified: He had prostate cancer and, so we were told, had only three months to live. Almost a year after a hero's welcome in Libya, al-Megrahi is alive and free and, one assumes, quite comfortable in Tripoli. We've been had.

How could it happen? Think money and politics. BP lobbied British officials for a prisoner swap. Libya wanted al-Megrahi freed, and BP wanted a $900 million offshore oil and gas exploration deal with Tripoli. Al-Megrahi was released for humanitarian reasons, but a British official at the time said the BP deal was a consideration. BP, the world's third-largest oil company, is one of Britain's most valuable companies. It's got juice there.

Now the politics. Al-Megrahi is a Libyan intelligence agent - and when spies are involved, the rules are different. Prisoner swaps are common. Just this month, Washington traded 10 undercover Russian agents for four incarcerated Russians accused of spying for the West.

It was the Scottish government that actually released al-Megrahi, eight years into a minimum sentence of 27 years. But all the power players got what they wanted - while the American people and the families of the dead got played. hN

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