For me the Lockerbie air disaster came close to being a personal tragedy. A very dear friend was booked on the Pam Am flight 103 in 1988 and literally escaped death at the eleventh hour when his business meeting in London overran so he had to re-book on a later flight.
Nor is the town of Lockerbie just a name on a map. In the years prior to the disaster I drove past the crash site on many occasions so the events in the air and the 11 deaths of the ground have a very real reference point.
Now the convicted Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, has been released from prison in Scotland and as I write this is in the bosom of his family in Libya were he awaits his own death sentence from cancer.
Megrahi was found guilty by a Scottish court sitting in Holland of murdering the 259 people on board the 747 flight and those on the ground. Some people argue that this was a convenient closure especially so for the governments in Washington and London.
What does appear clear is that some lawyers in Scotland are very unhappy with the conviction of Megrahi and wish the legal case to be re-opened. This could have been the case had he continued with his appeal against conviction.
Even more to the point many of the families of the victims in Britain do not share the view of their US counterparts and also have strong doubts over Megrahi’s conviction.
So we are faced with two tragedies: the slaying of 270 people by the explosion of the 747 over Lockerbie and that 21 years on we are still none the wiser over exactly what happened – perhaps we never will be.
Sadly the USA long ago ceased to be a reference point for compassion or justice so its government’s pressure counted for little in the Megrahi case and could even have been counterproductive.
Scottish Justice Secretary Mr MacAskill said Megrahi had shown no compassion to his victims, but added: “That alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.”
In the coming months Megrahi will join his victims in peace. However the torment will continue for those family members left behind and other perpetrators of this act of terrorism will still be amongst us because even if Megrahi was guilty, he certainly didn’t act alone.