The man convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over
Lockerbie, Scotland, has been granted release from prison on
compassionate grounds. The former Libyan intelligence agent is dying of
prostate cancer, but news of his release has sparked very mixed
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill carefully outlined the legal options
and the process involved in coming to a final decision. He condemned
the 1988 bombing as an heinous crime, and said he supported Abdelbaset
Ali Mohmeit al-Megrahi's conviction. He said, while it is important
that justice be served, mercy must also be shown.
reasons and these reasons alone, it is my decision that Mr. Abdelbaset
Ali Mohmeit al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing,
now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate
grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die," said MacAskill.
served eight years of a life sentence as the only man convicted for the
bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie. All 259 people
on board were killed along with 11 on the ground. Most of the victims
Even before his actual release, news that Megrahi
might be freed sparked controversy, particularly among families of the
American victims. Many said that a man convicted of killing 270
innocent people, should be shown no mercy and should spend the rest of
his life behind bars.
MacAskill said he knew many would disagree with his decision, and he said, he was conscious of deeply held feelings.
will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against our
people and those from many other lands," he said. "The pain and
suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal, some scars can
never fade. Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget,
let alone forgive."
The White House responded to MacAskill's
announcement, saying it "deeply regrets" the decision. U.S. Secretary
of State Hilary Clinton had urged the Scottish authorities not to
release Megrahi as did seven U.S. senators who wrote to the Scottish
government. Mrs. Clinton issued a statement following the release
saying she was "deeply disappointed" and extended her sympathies to the
families who lost loved ones in the bombing.
Many families of
British victims have been in favor of an early release, saying they do
not think the evidence against Megrahi was conclusive.
Megrahi has always maintained his innocence and had twice appealed his conviction.
was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, and medical experts said
the situation had deteriorated and that Megrahi could have only several
more months to live.
Megrahi was transported from prison shortly after the announcement of his release and taken to a waiting plane to return home.