Scottish authorities confirmed that they had freed the Libyan man convicted in one of the worst terror acts of modern times, the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
The incident over Lockerbie, Scotland, shortly before Christmas 1988 killed all 259 people on board and another 11 on the ground. Authorities said they freed the man because he is dying of cancer. The U.S. government has condemned the release.
Did the Scottish authorities make the right decision? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below.
In the following video released by the Scottish government, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill explains his decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi and answers questions about how the move will impact relations with the U.S.
Families of the victims decried the release, as seen in this video from the Associated Press:
British blogger Iain Dale condemns the release:
Ministers are appointed to make decisions, and today Kenny MacAskill made the wrong one. […]
Showing compassion is a laudable character trait. […] This may sound hard and heartless, but I the only emotions I feel towards al-Megrahi are contempt and anger. His failure to comprehend the magnitude of his crimes and say sorry to those affected by them should have meant that he died in the place he belongs. Prison.
Scottish politician Calum Cashley defends MacAskill and takes offense at criticisms of the justice system:
This was no easy decision to make but the decency and humanity of Kenny MacAskill shone through today when lesser politicians were taking cheap shots in the hope of getting their names in the papers and were talking the Scottish justice system down in the process. Our Justice Secretary raised Scotland today. Judge our society by the way we treat the weakest members of it, by the way we welcome those in need, and by the way we treat those who have wronged us. Judge us by the way we act as a society and, now, know that compassion has a place at the heart of justice in Scotland, that justice here is tempered with mercy. Release on compassionate grounds is not unknown in Scottish justice – it’s part of the standard practice – but when the man who has been found guilty of committing such a terrible crime in our land can find mercy at the hands of our justice system we can think the system worthy of the name.
Steve Holmes, a minister in Scotland, explores varying reactions in the U.S. and U.K.:
The news reports I have heard suggest that the notion that he might be freed is being greeted with simple incredulity in the USA. The breadth of condemnation from across the Atlantic is striking: it is not confined to (families of) victims, or to social conservatives, but seems to be almost universal (Democratic senators have intervened publicly, and Hilary Clinton has been reported to have been involved).
Is Britain – specifically in this case Scotland – just more liberal than the USA? Actually, probably it is, but I don’t think that this is the reason for the divide in this case. Rather, our understandings of what words like ‘guilt’ and ‘justice’ mean are culturally-determined, and somewhat different. To us, dying in prison seems a cruel and unusual punishment, and so essentially unjust; it seems that the default assumption in the USA is that sentences should be served, and so that any relaxation is unjust.