“Highly objectionable,” said Obama. “Outrageous and disgusting,” came the White House response. “Incredibly offensive to Americans,” came yet another.
FBI Director Robert Mueller wrote that it was “as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice,” that the action “makes a mockery of the rule of law” and “gives comfort to terrorists around the world.”
What riled everyone up last week was the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was serving a sentence due to expire no sooner than 2026. Meanwhile, al-Megrahi is himself due to expire in three months. The cause: prostate cancer. “Mr. Al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die.” These were the words of Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill stating his reasons for releasing the convicted terrorist on compassionate grounds. He went on to state:
Mr. Al-Megrahi did not show his victims any comfort or compassion. They were not allowed to return to the bosom of their families to see out their lives, let alone their dying days. No compassion was shown by him to them.
But, that alone is not a reason for us to deny compassion to him and his family in his final days.
Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown. Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, remaining true to our values as a people. No matter the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.
For these reasons — and these reasons alone — it is my decision that Mr Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, convicted in 2001 for the Lockerbie bombing, now terminally ill with prostate cancer, be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die.
It is worth noting that al-Megrahi at all times denied his involvement and was scheduled to commence an appeal this year which would have likely lasted into 2010, well beyond the time he had left on this earth. It is also worth noting that he had a decent chance at winning his appeal after some doubt arose (perhaps even “reasonable doubt”) regarding a key piece of evidence linking al-Megrahi to the bombing (a Mebo MST-13 timer). Added to this were questions relating to the testimony and credibility of key witnesses and arguments relating to proper process.
In this light, in the absence of time for a proper appeal process to be completed, a compassionate release does not seem so unreasonable.
Contrast this to the unreasonable demands made on Israel by the U.S. and the international community for the release of terrorists, many with blood on their hands, as “humanitarian gestures.” Unlike al-Megrahi, these men’s guilt is proven beyond reasonable doubt, these men are likely to live many more years, and these men are likely to strike again. And they have.
Israel released one thousand al-Megrahis in 1985, 429 in 1997, 200 in 1998, 600 in 1999, 500 in 2005, and 422 in 2008 (and this list is not exhaustive). Shortly after release in 1985, a Palestinian terrorist — three days into freedom — turned up in an Israeli hospital bed having blown himself up while preparing an improvised explosive device.
As well as the concessional releases on humanitarian grounds, Israel has chosen to release thousands of Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in prisoner swaps. The table below shows the lengths that Israel will go for the sake of one of its men, a fact that did not go unobserved by Samir Kuntar, that most notorious of terrorists who commented in an interview to Hezbollah’s satellite television network:
I’m jealous of the Zionists, who don’t spare any effort in bringing back captured soldiers or soldiers’ bodies. Seriously, we are jealous of our enemy and its care for a [body] and how it goes to the end of the world in order to return it, and of its concerns for captives and how it will go to the very edge to bring them back.
|1991||51||Proof of death of 1 soldier|
|2004||436 & 59 remains||1 & 3 remains|
|2008||5 & 200 remains||2 remains|