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.
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In an open letter US FBI director Robert Mueller lashed out at MacAskill over the weekend, a highly unusual move for a senior US law enforcement official perhaps explained by the fact that as an assistant attorney general Mueller had helped bring Megrahi to justice.
I am outraged at your decision, blithely defended on the grounds of ''compassion'.' Your action in releasing Megrahi is as inexplicable as it is detrimental to the cause of justice. Indeed your action makes a mockery of the rule of law. Your action gives comfort to terrorists around the world who now believe that regardless of the quality of the investigation, the conviction by jury after the defendant is given all due process, and sentence appropriate to the crime, the terrorist will be freed by one man's exercise of ''compassion'.' Your action rewards a terrorist even though he never admitted to his role in this act of mass murder and even though neither he nor the government of Libya ever disclosed the names and roles of others who were responsible... Your action makes a mockery of the emotions, passions and pathos of all those affected by the Lockerbie tragedy.
Ulterior motives for the release?
Some families of Lockerbie victims in Scotland believe Megrahi was an innocent man, and there has been press speculation that releasing him on "compassionate" grounds was an acknowledgment of errors at trial. But MacAskill insisted on Monday that the judgment was correct, praising the investigation. "I pay tribute to our Judges who presided and acted justly," he said.
Many in the UK and elsewhere believe that the release will pave the way for more British oil and gas investment in Libya, notwithstanding the fact that the government of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in London has no direct leverage over the Scottish judicial process. Mr. Islam, Qaddafi's son, said that discussions over releasing Megrahi were "always on the table" in talks on improved ties initiated by former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2007.
And some are speculating that Scotland's nationalist government, which has promised a referendum on independence from the UK, could run into trouble because of the decision. The Herald newspaper of Scotland reports that MacAskill's party could be headed for trouble.
"We will call for a vote so that the voice of the Scottish Parliament, not just the Scottish Government, is heard by those across the globe who are listening to events unfold," said Tavish Scott, the Liberal Democrat leader. "The SNP's credibility at home and abroad is in tatters. Scotland's must not be allowed to follow with it."
Duggan says he accepts that Megrahi is not well, though he has doubts about the prognosis Scotland has provided.
"If Megrahi is still dancing around in 5 months or so, MacAskill is going to have to resign," he says.