Scotland frees terminally ill Lockerbie bomber

August 20, 2009 8:02:35 AM PDT
Scotland's government freed the terminally ill Lockerbie bomber on compassionate grounds Thursday, allowing him to die at home in Libya despite American protests that mercy should not be shown to the man responsible for the deaths of 270 people. Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said Abdel Baset al-Megrahi's condition had deteriorated from prostate cancer. Al-Megrahi had only served some eight years of a life sentence, but MacAskill said he was bound by Scottish values to release him.

"Our belief dictates that justice be served but mercy be shown," MacAskill said, ruling that al-Megrahi "be released on compassionate grounds and be allowed to return to Libya to die." "Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade," MacAskill said. "Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive ... However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power."

Al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 of taking part in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 on Dec. 21, 1988. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The airliner -- which was carrying mostly American passengers to New York -- blew up as it flew over Scotland. All 259 people aboard and 11 on the ground died when the aircraft crashed into the town of Lockerbie.

The former Libyan intelligence officer was sentenced to serve a minimum of 27 years in a Scottish prison for Britain's deadliest terrorist attack. But a 2007 review of his case found grounds for an appeal of his conviction, and many in Britain believe he is innocent.

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