Abdel Baset el-Megrahi was paroled from prison by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Megrahi had been convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bomber, killing 270, and served 8 years out of his 27 year sentence. Megrahi is dying of cancer; hence MacAskill based his decision on “compassion,” to allow Megrahi to die in his home with his family.

I believe it is proper to allow a man to die at home with his family – if he is not guilty of 270 murders. That ought to be a consideration.

MacAskill could not have given much compassionate consideration to the feelings of the families of the victims – who are, understandably, infuriated by Megrahi’s release.

We seem to have developed the idea that punishment for crime ought not to involve any unpleasantness. Thus MacAskill’s “compassion” toward a man who was probably the worst murderer in his country’s history.

That Megrahi received a 27-year sentence – one year for every ten murders – already bespoke a certain nonseriousness about criminal punishment. I wonder what it would take, in Scotland, to get a life sentence? I won’t even dare breathe the words “death sentence.”

MacAskill’s title is “justice secretary.” Society does not punish criminals for the sake of revenge. It does so mainly because of our deeply-seated human hunger to see justice done. We don’t really believe in divine justice; we believe that if any justice is to be achieved, we human beings must get it done ourselves. That should be the remit of any government functionary with the title “justice secretary.”

Megrahi’s victims numbered not just the 270 killed, but the hundreds, or thousands more, whose lives have been poisoned by the horrific loss of kin and friends. Imprisoning Megrahi till his last breath would have been inadequate to achieve justice for all those victims. But it would have been the very least we could do (if we didn’t have the mortal courage to execute him).

One Response to “Megrahi”

  1. Robert Leslie Fisher Says:

    I wish to dissent from your view that el-Megrahi should not have been paroled. El-Megrahi was tried and convicted according to Scottish law. He received the proper sentence according to that country’s law. That country provides for parole for humane reasons for violent felons and el-Megrahi received such a parole.
    If the United States wished to try him it should have taken that up with the Scots over whose territory the explosion of the airliner occurred. Moreover, if the United States had agreed to incarcerate him after the he had served his sentence under Scottish law, then the United States could raise an objection about his being paroled. However, if he were convicted in an American court and his sentence were to be a sentence he needed to serve after the Scottish sentence had been served do you really believe the Americans would be hankering to lock him up, paying his medical bills, to prove we are tough on crime? No useful point is served by incarcerating him at this point given his terminal illness. Perhaps it bothers us that we cannot punish him for his crimes sufficiently. However, that is the reality. We cannot punish many people for their crimes sufficiently. Look at Bernard Madoff and the damage he did. Is keeping him in jail till he dies going to sufficiently punish him? He may be dying of cancer at this point also having only served a year or so of his sentence of 150 years. We may be faced with the possiblity of parole for him in the not too distant future.

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