Mercy for terrorists is a mistake. Almost a year ago, 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was released from prison in Scotland where he was serving a 27-year minimum term for his role in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. The convicted terrorist was said to be suffering from terminal prostate cancer and had three months to live. He was set free on compassionate grounds so he could die with dignity in his homeland, among his family. The tragedy is that al-Megrahi's health miraculously improved when he returned to Libya, and he is still alive months after his projected expiration date.
The issue has returned to public attention because of the role of current "devil incarnate" BP in securing the deal to release the murderer. The troubled petroleum giant admitted last week that it lobbied the British government in 2007 to conclude a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya. This outrage was perpetrated ostensibly to protect a $900 million oil-exploration deal signed with Tripoli that year. London concluded the agreement but the Scottish government rejected releasing al-Megrahi, who was diagnosed with cancer the following year.
Upon his eventual release, al-Megrahi was given a hero's welcome in Libya, which Tripoli had pledged would not happen. He is now nearing four times his projected life expectancy after being released. London-based cancer specialist Karol Sikora revealed earlier this month that the three-month life-expectancy projection was the verdict that the Libyan authorities - who had commissioned him to examine al-Megrahi - had been hoping to receive. He told the London Sunday Times, "It was clear that three months was what they were aiming for. Three months was the critical point. On the balance of probabilities, I felt I could sort of justify (that)." The three-month number, however, was on the low end of the real projection range. "There was always a chance he could live for 10 years, 20 years," Dr. Sikora admitted. "But it's very unusual." Mysteriously enough, the high-end estimates never made it into the report.
It doesn't take high-level corporate intrigue to make this a scandal. This story is outrageous even without BP's complicity in it. Al-Megrahi was a mass murderer who should never have been released under any circumstances. On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was traveling from London to New York when it exploded at 7:02 p.m. local time. The Boeing 747 disintegrated in a fireball and plummeted 31,000 feet to Earth. The debris dug a 50-foot crater in the town of Lockerbie. All 259 people on the plane were killed, along with 11 more innocents on the ground who were crushed under the wreckage. Al-Megrahi was convicted of 270 counts of murder, probably the largest conviction for terrorism in history.
It is misplaced compassion to release a terrorist to be able to die in comfort with his family in a place of his choosing. His victims were not given those choices, and they received no compassion. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said he made the decision to free the terrorist in good faith, and that he has no regrets. Between him and al-Megrahi, that makes two of them.
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