The only man convicted over the Lockerbie bombing 20 years ago, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, has, as expected, been released from his life sentence on compassionate grounds.
Megrahi is said to be suffering from prostate cancer and is not expected to live for more than a few months.
No one can deny the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988 was a terrible act. The deaths of the 270, both aboard the plane and in the town, was unforgivable and the sheer audacity of the attack rightly shocked the world.
It is only natural that the families of the victims have been vocal in their criticism of Megrahi’s release.
However, I am one of several people who has severe reservations about the legitimacy of his conviction and the circumstances of his release – it all seems to be a little bit too neat.
The evidence against him at his trial in the Netherlands was said to be mostly circumstantial. Indeed, one of the UN observers openly expressed his concern over the fairness of the proceedings and spoke of the possibility of a spectacular miscarriage of justice.
Despite such reservations, the governments – and their intelligence agencies – on both sides of the Atlantic needed someone on whom to focus the blame. Megrahi was convicted and sentenced to life in a Scottish prison. He has been there for the last eight years.
The timing of his compassionate release, therefore, seems to be a little convenient coming at a time when he had served so little of his sentence and just before his second appeal was to have been heard by the court.
His defence team were convinced they could present new arguments proving that much of the evidence at the original trial had been fabricated.
No one has ever explained how Megrahi managed to carry out such an attack on his own, his motivation for carrying it out or who financed his action. Surely those three questions would have been the first asked in the original investigation?
He just does not seem to fit the accepted profile we have come to accept of a radical terrorist.
Perhaps, it is because an appeal could have proved embarrassing in certain quarters, that a deal was done for him to drop his action in return for an early release.
Perhaps, the need to quench our thirst for Libyan oil is seen as being more important than the incarceration of a terrorist bomber whose conviction raises questions.
The fact is, a doubt has been left that makes me ask those questions
Megrahi has, throughout, been consistent in maintaining his innocence and today said:
“The remaining days of my life are being lived under the shadow of the wrongness of my conviction. I have been faced with an appalling choice: to risk dying in prison in the hope that my name is cleared posthumously or to return home still carrying the weight of the guilty verdict, which will never now be lifted.
Sometimes, the overwhelming need to see justice done overcomes the need for truth.
I hope that today’s events will not mean that the full and complete story will now be buried with the deaths of both Megrahi and his appeal!