By Andrew Field
There has been some outrage with the suggestion that Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi will be released from prison, apparently on compassionate grounds. It seems to be arousing more emotion on the other side of the pond, rather than the epicenter, Scotland. The matter raises a few questions, too, since many believe that al-Megrahi is not in fact guilty for the sins of those who brought down PAN AM Flight 103, despite his conviction by a competent court. This of course is a red herring, besides; al-Megrahi has withdrawn his appeal. The fact is, al-Megrahi is currently suffering the punishment of life internment for his notorious crime, added to which he now has a life threatening disease, prostrate cancer. He has been given three, or so, months to live. Is this not natural justice in itself?
In the last couple of weeks we have seen other compassionate actions by British authorities, the release of the infamous train robber, Ronald Biggs, also now on his last legs. Recently there was the little more obscure case of Samantha Orobator, a heroin trafficker, whose repatriation from Laos, was made possible because she is pregnant. She should have faced the death penalty, according to the laws of Laos, but escaped this fate with the commuting of her sentence to life imprisonment. The common denominator here is, allegedly, compassion, but one really needs to examine, seriously, if we are not all going soft with political correctness or something, a kind of deferred forgiveness, once nature takes its course.
Those who follow the Christian philosophy of forgiveness will no doubt understand this issue a lot better than many, but was is not the same religion which also advocates the principal of an ‘eye for an eye’ in the Old Testament? If forgiveness was ever a driving force, then, one may ask why did we not convict and just forgive al-Megrahi there and then back in the Scottish Court in Belgium? Of course this never happened because our judicial systems are based on punishment rather than forgiveness for sins committed. Lets be honest, many would have preferred the old fashioned biblical solutions in this particular case.
So, this matter is not a measure of forgiveness, it is about compassion and that alone. The poor fellow is dying and would like to spend his lasts days in his home country, receive his hero’s embrace from arch terrorist Quadafi, and be with his beloved family and friends. One argument which will be thrown at those who make these decisions will be, inevitably, what compassion did the criminal have for his victims at the time of the crime? Well, none, not an iota of compassion went into the manufacture of a wicked little suitcase bomb, which eventually took the lives of 270 people, men, women and children.
What we do not know, is just how many other prisoners are being released from the system, daily, or monthly, for similar compassionate reasons. We get told about the high profile criminals, but not all of them are so fortunate. One needs to question what the difference was, say, between the reprehensible crimes committed against vulnerable children by the notorious Myra Hindley, and those crimes committed by al-Megrahi. Hindley, of course was not sick at the time of her appeals for release. She merely sought her rights to parole after completing a portion of her life sentence. This was correctly refused and she died eventually from a heart attack, while still in custody, following years of ill health. Slightly different circumstances, but she too could have received some compassion. So just why are we releasing a terrorist, and, actually, an enemy of the people, who is still capable of finding paradise in heaven with a bomb strapped to his chest?
It must bring to question our values and judgment on the issue of punishment. Does this not send out a clear message that those who wish to draw their swords against us need never fear extended punishment or retribution? Whether we like it or not, the criminal justice system is based upon a platform of hearings, judgments and punishments for criminal acts committed. We really do need the courage of our convictions to sustain the punishments given.
As an addendum on 20 August 2009:
Assuming that a competent court tried and convicted Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, then his recent release on compassionate grounds, by Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, acting on his own behalf, apparently, is probably one of the most vile and shocking acts of incompetence and inconsideration by a politician in the history of the United Kingdom. It goes against the grain of all conservative values to the core. While British soldiers are dying in Afghanistan to defend Britain against terrorism, allegedly, MacAskill has released a terrorist. This delivers a very clear message to those who would do harm to British people. It is an absolute travesty of justice and inappropriate, in my humble opinion, and a weakness on the part of the government of United Kingdom in its efforts to curtail terrorism both at home and abroad.
How can the British government send its troops abroad, to fight in foreign wars, with the vain excuse that this is to fight international terrorism, when the British, or at least Scottish, justice system can fail so catastrophically in this manner? The snub in the face to Britain’s biggest ally, in the fight against terrorism, is perhaps the most serious tragedy in the whole sordid affair. How can the Americans ever trust the British judicial system again? The amount of taxpayers’ money expended in bringing terrorists to justice, and indeed bringing al-Megrahi to book in the first place, must surely be questioned, in light of the Scottish Justice Secretary’s decision. MacAskill has demonstrated serious failings in defense of the Realm, he had made British people more vulnerable, and deserves to be caste into the dungeons at the Tower for the rest of his miserable days. God forbid that he too succumbs to some vile cancer which secures his release.