Thursday, August 20, 2009

Compassion to someone who showed none?

The decision today of the separatist-led Scottish government to free Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person ever convicted in the Pan Am 103 bombing in 1988, after serving just eight years of a life sentence is very difficult to accept. It may be true that Mr. Megrahi has cancer and only has a few months to live. It may also be true this is being done on "compassionate" grounds, which Scots law does provide for and which the Scottish people have exercised since justice (among other fields) was delegated back to Scotland in 1999.

But there are two problems I have. First, Mr. Megrahi was convicted in a vicious terrorist attack that killed 270 people. He is a mass murderer and his release means he only served 11 days for everyone killed (259 on the plane plus 11 on the ground in Lockerie. Far as I can tell, he has never apologized for it nor shown any empathy for the families left behind. Certainly he showed no compassion since he planted the bomb in the first place.
Second, by allowing Megrahi free, it prevents a full investigation into what happened. The agreement between the US, the UK and Libya ensured that two and only two people would be tried for the attack -- under Scottish law and in a courtroom in the Netherlands that was temporarily ceded to the UK precisely for the purpose. As I noted last week, many felt more got away -- and Megrahi's sole co-defendant was acquitted. All evidence points to the fact that there are at least a dozen unindicted co-conspirators who got away with cold blooded murder. Under the terms of the release, Megrahi doesn't even have to name names; all he had to do to get off the hook was to drop his second and last ditch appeal which he did last week.

Compassion is a virtue shared amongst the vast majority of peoples on the planet, of all races, religions and ethnicities. Certainly it is one shared by the vast majority of Muslims. But Megrahi betrayed one of the key principles of Islam, not to harm a fellow human being. He got caught. And most importantly, he refused to name names.

For that reason, he should have served out his term and died in prison, or at least a prison hospital; after all, the NHS does cover even persons serving time in one of "Her Majesty's gaols" and the cancer could have been better treated in Scotland than it will be in Libya. Then and only then, after he died, should his body have been released to Libyan authorities.

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