Convicted Lockerbie bomber released

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only individual convicted in connection with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988, has been released by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, on compassionate grounds.

Pan Am Flight 103

Pan Am Flight 103

Megrahi has always maintained his innocence and, following the rejection of his first appeal in 2002, was granted leave in 2007 for a second appeal against conviction.

According to a report by the BBC , Dr Hans Köchler, one of the UN observers at the trial, expressed serious doubts about the fairness of the proceedings and spoke of a “spectacular miscarriage of justice”.

On 4 August 2009 Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill visited Megrahi at Greenock Prison with a view to considering a transfer request from the Libyan government.

The following week it was reported that Megrahi was likely to be released within a few days on compassionate grounds due to terminal prostate cancer, although the Scottish Government dismissed this as “complete speculation”.

Furthermore, a United States official said that the US had no information suggesting Megrahi would be released and that he should serve out his sentence. MacAskill faced mounting international pressure from politicians in the United Kingdom and United States, US victims’ groups and Syracuse University (which lost 25 students in the Lockerbie bombing), all urging him not to release Megrahi, who it was claimed would be home in time for Ramadan.

On 14 August lawyers representing Megrahi announced that he had applied to the High Court in Edinburgh two days previously to withdraw his second appeal, and that his condition had “taken a significant turn for the worse”. On 19 August 2009 it was announced that the Scottish Justice Secretary had reached a decision on the bomber’s fate, to be announced on the 20 August.

Despite the majority feeling that Al Megrahi should rot in prison for the murders of those innocent passengers, on 20 August 2009 the Scottish Government justice secretary Kenny MacAskill granted his release on compassionate grounds, stating that Megrahi was in the final stages of terminal prostate cancer and expected to die within three months.

Speaking of the Scottish traditions of justice and mercy, MacAskill said he was “bound by Scottish values to release him”, and allow him to die in his home country of Libya. Megrahi had served 8 years of his life sentence.

Following the announcement of the release the White House issued a statement saying it deeply regretted Scotland’s decision to release Megrahi and also extended its deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the Lockerbie incident.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron said, “I think this is wrong and it’s the product of some completely nonsensical thinking, in my view. This man was convicted of murdering 270 people, he showed no compassion to them, they weren’t allowed to go home and die with their relatives in their own bed and I think this is a very bad decision.”

Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP and ex-father of the House of Commons, who has persistently claimed that Megrahi was innocent, said: “Mr MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, has arrived at the right decision on compassionate grounds. “I do not accept his endorsement of the guilt of Mr Megrahi, whom I continue to believe had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime of Lockerbie.”

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