No Scottish Moral Highlands


Scotland’s ill-advised decision to release the Libyan agent convicted in the 1988 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland was made in the name of mercy. Unfortunately, it creates an entirely different and venomous result instead.

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The bombing attack on Pan Am Flight 101 claimed the lives of all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground. On the airplane were 189 U.S. citizens, many traveling home for the holidays, including a number of Jewish college students. The Scottish government lamely excused its decision last week to release Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi on the grounds that he has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, and deserved to be released on “humanitarian grounds.”

Unfortunately, this decision, coming only 8 years into a 27-year sentence, is tantamount to injecting emotional poison into the veins of the families and friends of the deceased. Susan Cohen, a New Jersey Jewish mother who lost her 20-year-old daughter in the Lockerbie bombing, called the decision to release Megrahi “sickening and terrible,” adding, “He is a convicted mass murderer. Compassion? What about my poor daughter?”

There is absolutely no justification for allowing Megrahi to return home to be with his family and loved ones in his final days. He should have been allowed to live out his days in a prison hospital and his remains sent back to Libya, just as those of his victims were returned to America. (Another pathetic injustice in the case is that Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi, under whose absolute dictatorship the bombing was carried out, was never convicted and jailed for the crime along with Megrahi and other co-conspirators).

Mercy is predicated on compassion. By rendering this decision, Scotland has chosen to show full compassion to a dying convicted murderer and none to the victims and their survivors. Is that a just result? Obviously not.

The U.S. government has recognized the absurdity of this decision, as President Barack Obama has labeled it a mistake, and Senator John Kerry indicates the release “turns compassion on its head.”

Ironically, in the same week, a Munich court sentenced a 90-year-old former Nazi officer to life in prison for murdering Italian civilians in retaliation for the killing of two Nazi officers. The former Nazi officer, Josef Scheungraber, was convicted on 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. In 1944, Scheunberger ordered his soldiers to shoot three Italian men and one woman in retaliation for the killing of two German soldiers by Italian partisans. He then ordered 11 more civilians herded into a barn, which was then blown up; one intended victim survived that blast and his testimony helped convict Scheunberger not once, but twice.

Should Scheunberger be shown “mercy” or “compassion” for his role in the murder of 14 Italian civilians, because he is 90 years old and in ill health? No way. The same is true of Ivan Demjanjuk, the Cleveland auto worker who was sent back to Germany to stand trial for mass murder as a concentration camp guard during the Holocaust.

You want an example of appropriate mercy? Then how about the case of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier who was kidnapped and is being held by Hamas since the 2006 conflicts in Gaza and Lebanon. Shalit’s only “crime” was that he was an Israeli soldier, doing his duty when he was kidnapped in a cross-border raid. But we will not hold our breath waiting for Hamas authorities to show “compassion” for Shalit, and we do not expect our “friends and allies” at the United Nations to demand that Hamas release the kidnapped soldier so that he could rejoin his family.

Megrahi, meanwhile, was after due process adjudged responsible for the deaths of 270 people on Pan Am Flight 101 and those on the ground. He deserves the same “compassion” as he showed towards his victims, when he carried out his murderous plot.