He’s going home. The man convicted of killing 270 people in the 1988 bombing of a Pam Am flight over the Scottish town in Lockerbie, has been released from prison on compassionate grounds. Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi is already on his way home to Libya, where it is believed he will die of prostate cancer within three months.
In making his decision, the Scottish Justice Minister has brought earned the ire of plenty of people. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleaded that it would be “absolutely wrong” to release him. Many American families of the victims agreed with her, and the White House has already issued a statement expressing ‘deep regret’.
But in Scotland, many of the victims’ families supported al-Megrahi’s release – generally because of widely held questions over the safety of his convcition.
Last week we talked about whether people convicted of serious crimes should ever be released on compassionate grounds. That’s still a very valid question to ask today, but his release also throws up other issues.
Libya sits on the largest oil reserves in Africa, oil reserves many companies are keen to have access too. Two years ago, then UK Prime Minister Tony Blair laid the foundations for Al-Megrahi’s release by agreeing a prisoner transfer deal with Libya. Just a few hours later British oil company BP announced a multi-million dollar deal to search for oil in the country.
Scotland says Al-Megrahi’s release was agreed only taking into account the law relating to compassion. But there are many who say it also has to do with improving ties with a potential major oil source.
Al-Megrahi’s freedom also throws back into the mix questions over the safety of his conviction, and whether he was indeed just a pawn in a bigger game designed to bring Libya back in from the cold.
With all this in mind, do you think it was right to release the Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds?