Lockerbie Bomber Freed
Thursday, August 20, 2009; 11:00 AM
Scotland freed terminally ill Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's on compassionate grounds today, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that mercy should not be shown to the man responsible for the deaths of 270 people.
Al-Megrahi, 57, was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988. He was sentenced to life in prison. The airliner, which was carrying mostly American passengers to New York, blew up as it flew over Scotland. All 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground died when the aircraft crashed into the town of Lockerbie.
The White House has said it "deeply regrets the decision" to free al-Megrahi and victims' families were quick to express their outrage.
Frank Duggan, president of Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc., was online Thursday, Aug. 20, at 11 a.m. ET to discuss the decision and reaction from the families.
Frank Duggan: Hi, this is Frank Duggan, President of Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc. I have asked to respond to some questions concerning the release of the bomber today in Scotland. Needless to say, the US families are very upset. We had been promised that he would spend his prison term in Scotland.
Glasgow, Scotland, U.K.: Hi -- I'd just like to say that the people of Scotland are not behind the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber. The majority of Scots are disgusted by this decision. He showed no compassion for his victims and should have been shown no compassion at all.
We are all incensed at this decision. Scotland does not want compassion shown to him, despite what the judiciary may say.
With kind regards.
Frank Duggan: I cannot tell you how pleased I am to read your post. All we get here from the Scottish newspapers is the opposite view. There is no question as to his guilt, there is no "new evidence" or papers withheld or witnesses bribed or any of this stuff that you are subjected to from your "newspapers."
The US families are very disappointed, as are the thousands of law enforcement officers and prosecutors who worked on this case for two decades. It is a sad day, but we really appreciate your support.
Frank Duggan, President
Victims of Pan Am 103, Inc
Kettering, Ohio: Thanks for taking my question. There seems to be a suggestion that he may have been a scapegoat since the Scottish authorities were unable to collect all of the conspirators. Has this entered into the calculation for releasing this guy?
Frank Duggan: Sir or Madam - he is not a scapegoat. He put the bomb on the plane.
Alexandria, Va.: Frank:
I'm very sorry this day had to come. This shouldn't have happened at all. The man deserved to die in prison for what he did back in 1988, and to only serve eight years out of a life sentence imposed on him is a miscarriage of justice. Is there any possible recourse available to the U.S. government or the victims families in this situation?
Frank Duggan: I don't think there is any recourse. Ministers decisions are "reviewable" but the US families do not have standing for a legal challenge, as far as I know. I have heard some attorneys thinking about legal action, but the guy is gone - I had to watch on CNN as he left for Libya. Libyan officials, at the urging of the US government warned about "celebratory" activities, but I am afraid we will see some dancing in the end zone when he gets home in a hour or so.
Washington, DC: Mr. Duggan, what actions, if any, has the White House or Congress taken with regard to the decision to release al-Megrahi?
Frank Duggan: There is not a whole lot more they can do. The White House registered strong objections, as Secretary of State Clinton and seven US Senators. Senator Lautenberg of NJ has been great, and they just called to see what more is possible to do.
P.G. County: What exactly is his condition? How long does he have to live? Is he healthy enough to contact other terrorists, i.e., does he have any influence in the terrorists' world -- is he a danger to the world?
Frank Duggan: I will be receiving his medical reports, which the White House requested of the Scots. I am told they clearly indicate that he has less than three months before going to Judgment Day.
Washington, D.C.: Who was the person or people in the Scottish government that made the decision? I heard it was one man. Is that true? And were there any Scottish government officials who opposed his release?
Frank Duggan: The decision was made by one man, Minister for Justice Kenny MadAskill. He made this known this morning, and it is on the net. He turned down the request from Libya that the prisoner be sent home under the Prisoner Transfer Agreement negotiated by the Brits, but granted the application for bail under compassionate relief. He gives his reasons in the statement, but basically he said he felt he had to do it under Scottish law and guidelines governing this issue.
Winchester, Va. : Thank you for taking my question. Is there no recourse within the international legal community for this situation? If not, why not? Thank you.
Frank Duggan: He is gone! He is probably already back home in Libya.
Edinburgh, Scotland: Today and for the first time in my life I am ashamed to be Scottish. I watched the press conference today with tears in my eyes and cannot imagine the pain the victims families are feeling. This man slaughtered 270 innocent people and I am sure the Libyan government will treat him like a heroic martyr (just check out Libyan news websites)and will do everything in there power to keep him alive for as long as possible.
So I offer an apology on behalf of my nation as MacAskill has shown compassion to a man who himself had none.
May MacAskill live with the shame for the rest of his days and be refused entry to the USA forever.
You're in my thoughts
Frank Duggan: Thank you so much for that message. The US families only hear from Dr. Swire and others and we cant believe they speak for everyone. From your message, they don't. We are grateful for your views. As a first generation Irish-American, I have a genetic distrust of the Brits, but I always trusted the Scots before this. Someone said "a politician is a politician, Scottish or not."
The Hague, Netherlands (vacationing in New York): I had asked previously what you think is the underlying reason for his release. That question still holds... What humanitarian grounds justifies his release? I do not understand the working of such a reason to release this man. I believe that it is a legal 'game' to see how laws can be twisted to work against the basic reasons they were established. It seems that we, in Europe, are coasting towards a legal system where the law protects the guilty more then the innocent. I personally am disgusted at how the shift of what 'is humane' is turning into a mockery.
Frank Duggan: Mr. MacAskills full statement is on the net. I agree that he should have rejected the application for Gadhafi to return the bomber under the terms of the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, because promises were made that he would serve all of his term in Scotland. I do not agree with the decision to release him on compassionate relief, but Mr. MacAskill felt differently.
Washington, D.C.: If anyone believes this man is entitled to a "compassionate" release, I suggest they review the victims list -- so many young people in their teens and 20s, babies as young as two months old. I am sickened by the decision of the Scottish government, and I extend my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims.
Frank Duggan: Thanks for that opinion. There is a book published by the family group called "On Eagles Wings" containing a photo and a short piece on every person killed. It tears the guts out of you to look at page after page. I got a bunch of these books to give to the investigators and prosecutors to keep on their desks as they worked on this case for nearly 20 years. All they had to do was flip through those pages to realize how important was their work and what a loss to the world this bomber caused.
Arlington, Va.: Dear Mr. Duggan -
I am so sorry you have to relive your pain so publically. If I may, what personal loss did you and your family suffer from this tragedy? Hearing it may help remind the public again of the real and sustained suffering at this man's hands.
Frank Duggan: I was Liaison to the Families on the 1989 Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, and have been working with the families since that time. It has been a labor of love and they made me president of the group last year.
Northern Virginia: We keep being told the Lockerbie families are divided on this, but I have yet to see even one family saying they thought it made sense. Are those who don't mind the release simply staying out of the limelight and not talking, or are you all actually united in opposing it? I'm genuinely confused.
Frank Duggan: I am confused too. I cannot believe that anyone could look at the overwhelming evidence of Megrahi's guilt and take the position that some of the UK family members take.
washingtonpost.com: This concludes our discsussion with Frank Duggan. Thank you for joining us.
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