Lockerbie families raise doubts as Scotland defends release
Scotland's justice minister, and his party, are in the hot seat after releasing a man convicted of murdering 270. Victims' families demand more information.
Embattled Scottish justice minister Kenny MacAskill, facing a storm of international condemnation for ordering the "compassionate release" of the man convicted of murdering 270 people in the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie 20 years ago, defended his action before an emergency session of the Scottish parliament on Monday.Skip to next paragraph
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He dismissed media suggestions that he had released Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Basset al-Megrahi in response to pressure from London, which has sought closer ties and more oil and gas business with Tripoli in recent years, or that the action was a Scottish nationalist tweaking of London's nose. Mr. MacAskill said his decision "was based on the law of Scotland, and the values I believe we seek to uphold. It was not based on political, diplomatic, or economic considerations."
Meanwhile Frank Duggan, a Washington-based lawyer who acts as a spokesman for the American victims' families (most of the murdered were US citizens, many of them Syracuse University students returning home from a school trip) says Scotland has yet to release full medical reports that verify that Megrahi was medically diagnosed as having only three months to live. Under Scottish law, prisoners are eligible for release on compassionate grounds if medical authorities determine that they likely have only three months to live.
"I was led to believe that Scotland had given information to our government that convinced them that he had 3 months to live,'' says Mr. Duggan. "It turns out that didn’t happen. The State Department doesn't have the records and the White House doesn't have them."
The one medical report that Scotland has produced, in which the names of the physicians are redacted, says that Megrahi was indeed gravely ill, but "whether or not prognosis is more or less than 3 months, no specialist 'would be willing to say.' "
Report worried over Megrahi's psychological state
In a section giving reasons for a recommendation of early release, the report's authors write:
He has, since first consulting, reported a feeling of isolation – cultural, religious, social, and language. He has a strong sense of family duty. The diagnosis of a terminal condition had heightened his sense of isolation and undoubtedly has substantial psychological impact. [Megrahi] himself has a strong belief of the physical state impacting on the psychological and vice versa. He simply wishes to return home to be with his family, including his elderly mother. In addition to considering the requirements of the patient, we had also discussed consideration of the family. His return to Libya would, we feel, not only benefit the patient, but would also be advantageous for the family. [Megrahi] has several children of varying age. If he was returned home, his family could became more involved in his healthcare needs. We would anticipate this would benefit them, not only in the short-term, but also when considering any potential longer-term psychological impact.