Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Sunday, August 23, 2009

An unappealing outcome

That it was the correct decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi to die in Libya with his family (either in a Libyan jail or - as it turned out - as a free man) is a no-brainer. To the various American family members of Lockerbie victims who have been asking for weeks whether their feelings were to be wholly disregarded in the decision-making process, the only possible answer is "Well, duh!" In Britain, sentencies, probation and release are determined by judges and other legal professionals, not by victims and their families; which just goes to show that our justice system is separated from the lynch mob by many more years than its US counterpart.

What is scandalous about al-Megrahi's release (the scenes when he arrived in Libya were tasteless, certainly, but understandable) is that in order to obtain it he bowed to pressure from the UK government to drop his appeal against conviction. Al-Megrahi has always maintained that he had nothing to do with the bombing, and there is widespread agreement on this side of the Atlantic at least that he is telling the truth. Relatives of several of the British victims, who attended the trial and heard the evidence, are convinced that Libya had nothing to do with the bombing, but that it was carried out by Syria on behalf of Iran. (Remember that a few months earlier the US Navy had casually shot down an Iranian Airbus with the loss of several hundred lives.) However, Syria were key allies in the first war against Iraq so couldn't be touched. Libya, on the other hand, were desperate to be rehabilitated by the West and to have their trade sanctions lifted. If that meant taking responsibility for Syria's bombing an furnishng a scapegoat or two, no problem. So it's no surprise al-Megrahi was greeted as a hero at home: to the Libyans, he's the guy who went to jail to get his country off the international hook.

Conjecture? Undoubtedly. Conspiracy theory? Check. Probable? Absolutely. (Heck, even the Daily Mail, not renowned as a friend to Libya, reckons the wrong guy probably went to prison.) However, now we shall never get to see the facts re-examined by a court, so there is a good chance the real killers will never be found.

Of course, the decision to release al-Megrahi wasn't taken because there was suspicion of his innocence: officially there is none, as he was convicted. It was taken because he is close to death and it was the humane thing to do, in accordance with our values, as Kenny McAskill said. Maybe he has a better appreciation than his American detractors of what Christianity is about. Maybe he just paid attention when he went to see The Fellowship Of The Ring:

Frodo: I am sorry, but I am frightened; and I do not feel any pity for Gollum....He deserves death.

Gandalf: Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death and judgment. For even the wise cannot see all ends. I have not much hope that Gollum can be cured before he dies, but there is a chance of it. And he is bound up with the fate of the Ring. My heart tells me that he has some part to play yet, for good or ill, before the end; and when that comes, the pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.

Anyway, I'm proud of my adopted country and its government for having the courage to stand up to American pressure and - for once - make a decision on the basis of a principle even if it could damage their popularity.

I note in passing the unedifying spectacle of several of the American victims' relatives saying that they don't believe that al-Megrahi is sick at all. Presumably they think that as the doctors who diagnosed his prostate cancer (and its fatal spread) are employed by the NHS they're all incompetent Communists (and probably Muslim immigrants). Scepticism from a position of total ignorance in the face of overwhelming contrary evidence: I bet these guys are all convinced Barack Obama was born in Kenya too.


At 23 August, 2009 09:29, Anonymous Technology said...

It seems there were some under the table deals going on with the release.

At 02 September, 2009 06:10, Blogger FatBaldingAccountant said...

There's an extensive and passionate discussion, including some good background on Scots law and the general practice of compassionate release here http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2009/08/merciless.html .

400+ comments, mostly from embarrassed (=good) Americans.

At 02 September, 2009 22:49, Blogger Rob said...

Thanks for the link. The whole al-Megrahi thing has now become this month's non-story to be talked up and milked for every minute of airtime by Britain's army of attention-seekers. Still, most Scots seem to approve of the decision, and if it's dented the "special relationship", well, it's brought us nought but grief since D-Day.

At 03 September, 2009 11:24, Blogger FatBaldingAccountant said...

"Britain's army of attention-seekers"... present company excepted, naturally (?).




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