The authorities in Scotland have been giving extensive hints that they were about to release the Lockerbie bomber, Abdulbaset Ali Al-Megrahi. And sure enough, today they have released him. As a result of devolution — one of Tony Blair’s most destructive schemes for Britain — Scotland has its own administration. Its justice secretary is one Kenny MacAskill. In a convoluted ramble of a speech this morning, he began by declaring that the courts had found Al-Megrahi guilty, and that was that. He had noted Mrs. Clinton’s request to keep the man in prison to serve out his life sentence for mass murder, and he had also heard what the families of the victims had to say. 189 of the 270 murdered were American. Justice had been done, and he was not about to release the culprit. But then he contradicted himself. Doctors have assured him that Al-Megrahi has terminal cancer, and so he has to be freed. Al-Megrahi had shown no mercy to those he killed, which is why we have to show mercy to him. This is the sort of somersault in logic and morality with which lawyers like to baffle the rest of us.
The BBC immediately put on air people who thought this release was right and proper. But the affair leaves a stink in the nostrils. Last November, Britain signed a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya, and hurried it through Parliament. This could refer only to Al-Megrahi and was evidently the necessary preliminary to letting him go — there are no other Libyans in British prisons or Britons in Libyan prisons. Al-Megrahi had appealed against his sentence, lost, but then put in a second appeal. This might well have cleared up whether he was guilty as charged, and satisfied the victims’ families. But he could not be released while this second appeal was pending. Lo and behold! He withdraws this appeal, is suddenly revealed to have terminal cancer, and his boss, Muammar Gaddhafi, the Libyan dictator and hardened practitioner of terror, sends his private jet to Scotland.
The opportunity is lost to learn whether Libya blew up the Lockerbie jet, or, as some say, Iran and its Palestinian hirelings. The suspicion is that the British government cut a secret deal with Gaddhafi to return his agent for the sake of the lucrative oil and gas contracts that British companies are obtaining in Libya, but the truth of that will also probably never be known, to leave a general cloud of contempt for the British government and the way it does business. And it’s good news for terrorists that they needn’t really pay much of a price for their way of doing business.
In the course of his wretched speech, Kenny MacAskill said that once Al-Megrahi is in Libya “he may live, he may die.” That weasel phrase is designed to cover MacAskill’s back in the event that the vaunted compassion and mercy shown by Scotland prove to be merely euphemisms for Al-Megrahi’s comfortable and long-drawn retirement back home.