Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Lockerbie bomber will live out his days in Libya

The National Transitional Council -- the de facto government of Libya -- announced late today that it has no plans to hand over to the West the man convicted of blowing up an airplane and killing 270 people.

Reuters reports that the NTC's justice minister made clear that Abdel Basset al-Megrahi will remain on Libyan soil.
“We will not give any Libyan citizen to the West,” Mohammed al-Alagi, the NTC justice minister, told reporters in Tripoli. The NTC became Libya’s de facto government after rebels streamed into the capital last week, overthrowing leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“Al-Megrahi has already been judged once and he will not be judged again ... We do not hand over Libyan citizens. Gaddafi does,” Alagi added.
Megrahi, who had been diagnosed with cancer, served eight years in a Scottish prison for orchestrating the bombing of the Pan Am passenger plane which blew up over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 killing 270 people.
He was released in 2009 on compassionate grounds after doctors gave him only months to live.
CNN reports it has tracked down al-Megrahi, and he is near death.
CNN found al-Megrahi under the care of his family in his palatial Tripoli villa Sunday, surviving on oxygen and an intravenous drip. The cancer-stricken former Libyan intelligence officer may be the last man alive who knows precisely who in the Libya government authorized the bombing, which killed 270 people.
The decision by the NTC -- regardless of al-Megrahi's medical condition -- is certain to be debated in the days to come. However, if he was released to his native Libya two years ago, then why should anyone believe that he ought to be handed over again? Because he lived longer than he was expected to?

The mistake -- if that is the proper term -- in releasing him was made in Scotland and by Scottish leaders; whether they did the right thing can still be discussed, but it cannot be in the context of returning al-Megrahi there.

Let's acknowledge that the man did something horribly wrong. Let's acknowledge that he has been convicted of it. But let's also acknowledge that once the Scottish government sent him home, the issue of where he would serve the remainder of his sentence was moot.

No, don't fault the NTC today; fault the Scottish government for what it did then.

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