WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following news that investigators have identified new suspects in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) today introduced legislation that would increase the minimum reward offered under the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of those involved in the 1988 terrorist attack.
On Dec. 21, 1988, a bomb exploded on Pan Am Flight 103, which was traveling from London to New York. All 259 people on board, many of whom were Americans flying home for the holidays, were killed. Falling debris killed another 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was found guilty for his part in the terrorist act and sentenced to life imprisonment, but investigators have always asserted that al-Megrahi did not act alone.
“The world needs to know that the United States will not stop until justice is served, no matter how much time has passed,” Sen. Menendez said. “We will not rest until each perpetrator of the terrorist attack that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 is caught and is held accountable for their actions that took American lives. The families of the victims deserve no less. We welcome the news that investigators have identified new suspects and believe that raising the reward will help secure their apprehension.”
“We owe it to the victims and their families to never give up in the pursuit of justice,” said Sen. Schumer. “To know that other accomplices are out there living their lives freely, after taking the lives of so many Americans, must be painful and galling for the families of the victims. We need to increase the reward to gather more information about these newly identified suspects so we can find them, assess their guilt and help bring them to justice if they had anything to do with the Lockerbie bombing.”
“Nearly 27 years after the Pan Am Flight 103 tragedy that took the lives of 270 innocent victims – including 35 Syracuse University students, two students from SUNY Oswego, a Colgate University student, and a couple from the town of Clay – still only one person has been convicted for taking part in this terrorist attack,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “This legislation would help encourage those with information to come forward so that all those involved in the attack can be brought to justice, and the families who lost love ones can finally get closure.”
“We must work tirelessly to ensure every person responsible for this terrorist act is held accountable for their actions,” Sen. Booker said. “Nothing we do will bring back home the 270 mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters we lost that day, including 34 New Jerseyans, but our hope is that this legislation will empower the State Department to continue seeking justice for the victims and their families. Time may pass, but our determination to bring to justice those responsible will never fade.”
For a PDF of the bill click here.
Further information about the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program can be found here. The State Department authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of those responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 and the murders of the 270 victims. The Menendez bill would raise the reward to no less than $10 million.
In January 2001, al-Megrahi was convicted for his role in the attack and sentenced to life imprisonment. On August 20, 2009, al-Megrahi was released by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds, as he had been diagnosed with terminal medical condition. Menendez chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigation that reviewed the troubling circumstances surrounding al-Megrahi’s release and held a hearing on the issue on September 29, 2010.
In December 2010, Menendez, along with U.S. Senators Frank Lautenberg, Schumer and Gillibrand, released a report entitled “Justice Undone: The Release of The Lockerbie Bomber.” The report concluded (1) that al-Megrahi’s three-months-to-live prognosis was unwarranted and, thus, that the basis for his release on compassionate grounds was unjustified; (2) that political and commercial interests motivated both Libya and the UK, including the real threat of commercial warfare by the Libyan government against the UK; (3) that al-Megrahi’s release violated a 1998 justice agreement with the U.S. that was meant to keep anyone convicted of the Lockerbie bombing inside of Scotland; and (4) that al-Megrahi should be returned to prison.
Al-Megrahi died on May 20, 2012.