Lockerbie Bomber Released
As has been anticipated, the man who murdered 270 people by bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, has been given a compassionate release from prison so that he may spend his dying days with his family.
I’ve written a lengthy roundup of the matter, “Lockerbie Bomber Released Over U.S. Objections,” for New Atlanticist.
Alex Massie argues that there’s nothing gained by keeping Abdelbaset al-Megrahi locked up, especially since we’re pretty sure he didn’t act alone.
Perhaps. Then again, he is the only person to actually be convicted in the mass murder of these 270 people. Surely, his part in that merits spending more than eight years in prison.
The decision, of course, is rightly with the UK Scots. They, not the United States, have the jurisdiction here and, while our government has every right to express its wishes, they have the right to carry out the policy they think best. Certainly, al-Megrahi would have been allowed to rot in prison were he in American custody; indeed, he may well have been executed for his crimes. Despite our common law origins, there is quite a bit of divergence in the criminal justice cultures of the two countries and, indeed, within the Western democracies generally.
Also, is it just me or is it rather surreal that he’s flying home on a commercial airliner (not Pan American, which ceased operations long before al-Megrahi ever went to trial) and climbing stairs saying “Next time …Relax before you fly”?
UPDATE: Joe Gandelman has a nice roundup as well.
UPDATE II: I have corrected the above to note that the sovereignty here is with the Scots, not the UK central government. Interestingly, all of the papers cited in the piece — mostly British but also the American Christian Science Monitor — treat the subject otherwise, writing about it in terms of US-UK relations and US-UK cultural disparity.
Photo: Reuters Pictures.