None dare call it justice
Following Freddie’s lead, I confess I’m rather baffled by Alex Massie’s sympathetic take on the Lockerbie Bomber’s release. As I understand it, this is a man duly convicted of murdering hundreds of innocent airline passengers. Through his involvement, al-Megrahi forfeited any claims on our compassion above certain minimal standards of humane treatment.
Massie suggests that these proceedings are complicated by several other factors: Scotland’s desire to appear assertive and independent on an international stage; al-Megrahi’s deteriorating health, and the questionable circumstances surrounding his conviction and and government’s investigation of the Lockerbie bombing. But these are hardly reasons to release a convicted killer, particularly when there are other, well-established mechanisms for addressing his concerns.
Perhaps al-Megrahi is merely a “symbolic prisoner,” a convenient scapegoat for Libya’s broader involvement. That other people are implicated in the bombing, however, is emphatically not a reason to release their co-conspirator. Reopening the investigation and keeping al-Megrahi in jail would be an eminently reasonable compromise. As for compassion, some criminals merit it, others do not. Whatever his health, I daresay al-Megrahi falls into the latter category.
There’s also something very callous about using the release of a convicted terrorist to signal Scotland’s independence on the world stage. I’m sympathetic to any country seeking national self-determination, but it hardly speaks well of your homeland when SNP supporters take to twitter to mock an understandably outraged American public.
Update: That said, I think Sonny Bunch’s defense of the death penalty is pretty unpersuasive in this context. The answer to al-Megrahi’s release is not to execute more prisoners, but to ensure that people convicted of life imprisonment actually stay in prison for life (absent some exculpatory evidence, obviously). al-Megrahi’s release is pretty extraordinary; wrongful convictions are unfortunately less so.