Three points of view on the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
"It seems to me to be a truly terrible misunderstanding of what compassion is," said Bishop Mark Sisk. "It truly undercut the sensibilities of those who are the survivors. And in that sense, it is, I think horrific."
"I have great difficulty with this decision," the Bishop added. "'This is a man that according to the courts was found guilty of masterminding a horrendous crime. He was given a life sentence with a minimum of 27 years. He should have had to abide by that sentence and to abridge that does not
seems to have been a just thing to have done."
The Rt. Rev. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham:
What people in America may not realize is this.A BBC World Service report raises doubts the release was done on compassionate grounds, placing the real reason as a widespread belief in Scotland that the man was wrongly convicted. A podcast of that report can be downloaded here.
1. There is a widespread opinion in the UK that the man in question was put up as a fall guy for various reasons and actually had nothing to do with the Pan Am flight. This opinion is not based on hearsay or guesswork but on the continued strong representations which have been made from various quarters about evidence that wasn't presented, and about various factors which led up to the finger being pointed at Libya rather than, say, Syria or other sources of terrorism. I know the decision to send the man home wasn't based on a retrial or the consideration of such evidence, but we have had that put forward by serious reporters over quite a long time, creating a climate in which many, perhaps the majority in the UK, really do believe that the conviction was, at best, not proven. There was quite a shrewd article in our of our papers today saying that the real shame about his sending back is that there should have been a retrial with the new evidence and he might have been cleared.
2. Many people in the UK see the reaction in the U.S. as being typical U.S. anti-Arab and particularly anti-Libya reaction. Because we are conditioned to be a bit worried about U.S. knee-jerk pro-Israel attitudes we tend to distance ourselves from that kind of position. Please note, I am NOT saying any of this is particularly significant in terms of the actual decision, just that it is the context within which the debate is going on. Many in the UK have been horrified, too, by the ongoing sagas about Abu Graib, Guantanamo Bay and so on, and in consequence do not like being told by America how to treat prisoners. This may be illogical but it's the mood at the moment. I know that most Americans do not like being told by Brits how to do things either; that comes with the territory ever since George Washington vs King George III. So be it.
4. The British courts have recently released one of our long-term serious criminals who is not far from death. His crime was nothing like mass murder, but it was nasty and brutal and there was strong public opinion against him and against his ever being released, but our system eventually decided that clemency was the right thing. Again, this isn't particularly a parallel or anything, just a straw in the wind about different beliefs and attitudes. (We have plenty who would say he should have rotted to death in jail, but plenty, not just lily-livered liberals either, who don't see that as an approach that a truly civilized country should take.)
Addendum. This past Sunday Kelvin Holdsworth, the Provost of St. Mary's Cathedral, Glasgow, preached on the subject of the release of Mr. al-Megrahi. Read or watch here.