President Barack Obama said Thursday it was a mistake to release the Lockerbie bomber by Scottish authorities on grounds of compassion.
He said the convicted bomber must not receive a hero's welcome upon his return to Libya and should be placed under house arrest.
“We have been in contact with the Scottish government indicating that we objected to this,” Obama said in an interview from the White House with Philadelphia-based radio talk show host Michael Smerconish.
“And we thought it was a mistake,” said Obama.
“We’re now in contact with the Libyan government and want to make sure that if in fact this transfer has taken place that he’s not welcomed back in some way but instead should be under house arrest,” he added.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said the order to release al-Megrahi,who was convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that killed 270 people, grew out of the convicted bomber’s deteriorating health.
He has prostate cancer and is not expected to live much longer. Al-Megrahi had served eight years of a life sentence in Scotland.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued a statement saying she is “deeply disappointed” by the Scottish authorities’ decision.
She noted that the Dec. 21, 1988 bombing over Lockerbie killed 270 people, including 189 Americans.
“We have continued to communicate our long-standing position to U.K. government officials and Scottish authorities that al-Megrahi should serve out the entirety of his sentence in Scotland,” Clinton said.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the United States had repeatedly asked Scotland to keep al-Megrahi in custody.
“On this day, we extend our deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones,” Gibbs said.