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Undeserved compassion
by Asa Butcher
2009-08-21 07:56:22
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As I excitedly began opening my birthday presents on the morning of my tenth birthday I clearly remember BBC Breakfast News being on in the background with live pictures being broadcast from a small Scottish town called Lockerbie that had been devastated by the falling burning debris from an aeroplane that had exploded overhead. The TV didn't stay on for long that day but the images of destruction have remained etched in my memory to this day and the shocking news of its architect's release have brought them flooding back.

Libyan Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi was the man found guilty of murdering all 243 passengers and 16 crew members of Pan Am Flight 103 and, consequently, eleven people in Lockerbie as the wreckage fell to the ground. 270 people murdered just like that; families, a newlywed couple, students, children and more, each of whom was just in the wrong place at the wrong time are gone forever and the one man found responsible is being released on compassionate grounds.

Mr al-Megrahi's doctor states that his patient is suffering from an "aggressive" form of prostate cancer that is no longer responding to treatment meaning he only has approximately three months left to live, well I don't want to sound too malicious but good. Mr al-Megrahi knows the end is coming just as many of the passengers did as the plane plummeted to earth, so there perhaps the victim's families can take something from this cosmic justice although I doubt it.

It took 11 years, four months and 13 days for Mr al-Megrahi to be brought to trial before being found guilty on January 31 2001. He was released on August 20 2009, which means he served a total of 8 years, 6 months and 20 days for his crime equating to a mere 12 days per victim. 12 days for a life… if that is the going rate for killing somebody then I guess we shouldn't have any worries about prisons becoming over-crowded in Scotland in the future.

Some have argued that we shouldn't descend to his level of inhumanity, we should maintain the moral high ground and show compassion to a dying man, but I think he has been shown compassion, humanity and morality by being jailed instead of being lynched, executed and otherwise been treated to some of the punishments currently in circulation across our planet. Mr al-Megrahi should be thankful he was imprisoned in Scotland and not the USA where 189 of the victims were from because he would have surely been introduced to Death Row by now.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said that compassion and mercy were about "upholding the beliefs we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people, no matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated." I thought our beliefs also hold that those who commit murder and other atrocities are punished for their crimes - how is he remaining true to the Scottish or any justice system by allowing this man's release? Megrahi was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a recommendation that he should serve at least 20 years before being eligible for parole, but I don't recall any clauses and conditions being added to his sentence.

How can anybody request compassion and understanding after murdering so many innocent people? How can they have the gall to request a return to their native country to spend their final days with their family? I just don't get it. Is this some form of twisted irony that is being practiced by lawyers and doctors today? Who will be released from prison next? Perhaps Ian Brady, Peter Sutcliffe or Dennis Nilsen could do with a dose of compassion from the British Justice System, but now I am just being silly… or am I?

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Emanuel Paparella2009-08-21 08:47:25

The following is the beginning of a New York Times article which appeared in June 28, 2007 by Alan Cowell and titled “Scottish Panel Challenges Lockerbie Conviction.” The link above will take you to the full article.

LONDON, June 28 — “A Scottish judicial review body ruled Thursday that a former Libyan intelligence official jailed for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing might have been wrongfully convicted and was entitled to appeal the verdict against him. After an investigation lasting nearly four years, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission delivered an 800-page report — much of it still secret — that identified several areas where “a miscarriage of justice may have occurred.”
The commission cast doubt on the testimony of a witness, who changed his story several times and had been shown a photograph of the Libyan official days before picking him out of a lineup. It also challenged evidence presented at the trial that the official had purchased the clothes found in the suitcase that held the bomb.” ….
The article goes on to reveal that the real culprits, never brought to justice, may be members of Palestinian Liberation group with ties to Iran. Which leads to this question: as long as doubts remain and the crime committed is not proven beyond the shadow of a doubt (the convicted has moreover never acknowledged his guilt) is genuine justice being served? The question is especially pertinent in a continent that considers the elimination of the death penalty a superior moral posture and considers capital punishment cruel and unusual punishment. Or do we want it both ways?

N2009-08-21 09:55:25
Absolute disgust. He should have been left in prison to die, hopefully painfully. Now he returns home as a hero. Bullshit!!!

Asa2009-08-21 10:31:42
'Might have' still needs to be proved one way or another in a court of law and until then he is guilty for the crime he has been convicted for. And let's just remind ourselves again that his crime was murdering 270 people. He'll get all my sympathy if he is found innocent, but until then he should be locked up.

Emanuel Paparella2009-08-21 14:43:00
Point well taken Asa, however my only argument was this: a justice that takes so long to try and convict a defendantand then remains doubtful of his guilt and continues to drag the investigation of those doubts, is a flawed justice at best. Could that partially explain the release which many are now vehemently protesting. It seems to me that there is difference between justice and revenge and to discriminate between one and the other is especially incumbent on those who administer justice. It goes without saying that here in America the situation would have been even worse since once you have executed an innocent man any "might have" becomes moot.

Emanuel Paparella2009-08-21 19:52:41
Errata: defendant.

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