I am baffled and angry over the recent release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi, the convicted bomber of the 1988 PAN AM flight that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. Al Megrahi was tried and the only person found guilty of planting a bomb in the cargo hold of that airplane, which exploded in mid-flight, killing all 259 passengers and crew members on board as well as 11 people on the ground.
Al-Megrahi is suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is expected to live for no more than three months. As a result, the Scottish government chose to bestow “compassion” upon him and released him from prison in Scotland and allowed him to return to Libya to serve out his remaining days, free and surrounded by family. He will be afforded the rites he took away from 270 people – being able to say goodbye and die on his terms.
I am troubled because the Scottish government has chosen to show al-Megrahi compassion while he has shown zero compassion for any of his victims and has not shown one morsel of remorse. Furthermore, the court decided to give al-Megrahi a sentence of life imprisonment instead of capital punishment, a sincere sign of compassion. Does a remorseless murderer need more compassion than that?
Lastly, al-Megrahi could have, under stipulation in international law and shared reciprocity between the UK and Libya, been transferred to a Libyan prison to serve out his sentence in his homeland and die at home. The world could have tolerated that result better than the reality that happened.
That reality was al-Megrahi’s landing in Tripoli and walking down the stairs, unassisted (impressive for a man on his supposed deathbed), to a hero’s welcome on the tarmac. A mass murderer who served less than 14 days per victim was greeted by throngs of people cheering and wearing white to celebrate his release. It was a day of celebration where Libyan nationals and women threw candy in the streets. A joyous moment.
While I am troubled by al-Megrahi’s release, I am not up at night worrying about the future terror he will inflict. But I am up at night, literally petrified at the two major effects of his release:
We have shown the terrorists that they win. For two years in a row, terrorists – murderers who killed innocent people – returned to their native lands to live out their days. Last year, Israel returned six living terrorists and 200 remains of terrorists for two corpses of soldiers being held for ransom. We have now shown them in two years, with two different instances, that terrorism can work. Your country that harbors terrorists and supports murder will work at all costs and negotiate to bring you home to a hero’s welcome.
We have reminded ourselves of the sad but unavoidable truth that the Western world, and those that share its values, do not speak the same language as those who celebrate radicalism and fundamentalism. In particular, I speak of Israel and her many enemies. Lebanon celebrates the release of a murderer and Israel mourns the death of the victims. America and Israel love life and do everything possible to preserve it, while others glorify martyrdom and name hospitals and schools after those who bomb buildings and grocery stores and kill people on airplanes trying to get from one place to another. How can we ever make a real peace when we don’t even share a same language and have no common values?
Our government and legislators must remind themselves that terrorism is not a vehicle to communicate or negotiate passions, beliefs, or desires. Al-Megrahi’s release teaches all of those young and eager martyrs-to-be that terrorism works. Kill and be glorified. Get caught and we will bring you home to live and even die, in peace and compassion.
Shame on the Scottish government. Shame on Libya. Shame on its people for celebrating such heinous behavior. Where is their compassion?