Scot Free: Releasing the Lockerbie Murderer Is a Travesty of Justice

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

THE SICKENING hero's welcome accorded by Libya on Thursday to the mass murderer convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing is an indictment both of the government in Tripoli that choreographed his homecoming and of the Scottish justice minister who ordered his release on "compassionate" grounds.

The Scottish minister, Kenny MacAskill, said he released Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, because he is suffering from prostate cancer and is expected to die within three months. His decision to free Mr. Megrahi after he had served just eight years of a minimum 27-year sentence is a travesty of justice. It suggests indifference for the 270 innocent victims who died at Lockerbie and contempt for their anguished relatives.

For a blood-soaked killer like Mr. Megrahi, it was quite enough compassion that he was permitted visits from his wife and family in the Scottish prison where he was serving his sentence. To bestow freedom and the comforts of home on a man serving a life sentence for one of the most horrific acts of terrorism in modern times is a breathtaking abuse of power. Having shown not the slightest trace of mercy for his innocent victims, there was only one appropriate way for Mr. Megrahi to have returned home: in a box.

To recap: Mr. Megrahi was found guilty by a panel of three Scottish judges of planting the bomb that exploded Dec. 21, 1988, aboard Pan Am Flight 103, en route from London to New York. The resulting fireball transformed Lockerbie, a small Scottish village, into a ghastly tableau of carnage. The 189 Americans who died included many children and youths, among them several dozen students from Syracuse University. In addition to the passengers and crew, 11 people were killed on the ground.

Mr. Megrahi's joyful airport homecoming, which featured flag-waving crowds bused to the airport by the authorities, is proof that the government of Moammar Gaddafi feels not the slightest trace of remorse for the slaughter at Lockerbie, despite having admitted its complicity in the bombing and paid $2.7 billion in compensation to the victims' families. It makes a mockery of Washington's decision to elevate Libya's status from international pariah to the community of civilized nations. If the Libyan regime does not heed the U.S. demand that Mr. Megrahi remain under house arrest until his death, the Obama administration should consider reinstituting sanctions.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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