So I heard on the radio this morning that Scotland is releasing Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi, the man held responsible for the Lockerbie bombing. For those that don’t remember, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed by a bomb killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members in addition to people on the ground who were killed by falling chunks of debris.
Megrahi was sentenced to twenty seven years in prison in 2001. The entire time he maintained that he was innocent. In 2007 his case was referred to the Court of Criminal Appeal in Edinburgh. He is being released on compassionate grounds because he has terminal prostate cancer. He will be returning to Libya to die. Apparently some people have a problem with that.
I don’t know if I do or not. Let’s assume a few things. Let’s assume that he’s guilty and that he’s completely healthy. At 57 years of age he would be 76 when released, having served his full term. Odds are good he wouldn’t live very long beyond that. It would be, in effect, a life sentence.
Would serving those extra nineteen years serve any good purpose? They wouldn’t “reform” him. They wouldn’t bring back his alleged victims. The only real purpose it would serve would be to give the families of the victims some sense that the man responsible has lost that which he took away. I think that’s fair. I certainly prefer that to the death penalty.
As it stands right now he has little time left to live. I don’t know how long he has before the cancer takes his life, but if it’s serious enough for them to release him then I would wager not long. If he’s guilty then he has in essence served a life sentence, whether they release him or not. If he’s innocent and is left in jail then there will not be sufficient time to discover that and free him.
So I ask those who have a problem with his early release, what would keeping him in jail do? As President Obama said I also have “deepest sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of their loved ones. We recognize the effects of such a loss weigh upon a family forever.” Would making this man sit in jail for his last few months assuage that loss?