Friday, August 21, 2009


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.


Mark said...

There celebrations surrounding Megrahi's return are perhaps unfortunate - but Libya considers it is welcoming home an innocent man and not a convicted terrorist. Had a US citizen been in the same situation he or she would probably be have escorted home by President Clinton.

simon said...

Very good point from Mark.

As an Englishman I was happy with the release being Scotland's decision rather than Britain's. Colonel Gadaffi has just spoilt that by thanking Gordon Brown and the Queen.

'Sancho' said...

Good posts from both Mark and Simon. I think whichever way the decision was made it was bound to be condemned and praised pending on what side of the argument you sit. I don't think Libya welcomed home what they consider as a terrorist but an innocent man - and given that some Scottish lawyers and UK relatives of those killed do not believe he was guilty either it makes you pause for a very long thought. Sadly Mandelson was not the appropriate person for the UK Government to trundle out to speak on truth and if we ever find that elusive quality - quantity we may find that it is the British and US Governments that have most to fear from its uncovering.