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Memorial stones in memory of victims of Pan-Am flight 103 are pictured in a garden of remembrance near the village of Lockerbie in southwest Scotland on November 5, 2008. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
Memorial stones in memory of victims of Pan-Am flight 103 are pictured in a garden of remembrance near the village of Lockerbie in southwest Scotland on November 5, 2008. (PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Globe editorial

For the Lockerbie bomber, death takes a holiday Add to ...

A physician who predicted last year that Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi had only three months to live has now amended his forecast and said that, while it is unusual, the mass killer could live another 10 years, or longer. If there was any lingering doubt that Mr. Megrahi's release last year was a grave injustice, the admission by Professor Karol Sikora has settled the matter.

Mr. Megrahi, who returned to Libya after he was freed, has already lived well beyond his expected expiration date from prostate cancer. It is nearly a year since his release by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds. Mr. Megrahi should be in a Scottish jail. Instead, the only person convicted of the terrorist atrocity is reported to be living in a luxury villa in his homeland.

In Scotland, prisoners with a medical prognosis of fewer than three months to live are eligible for release on compassionate grounds. It is a humane gesture, welcome in the case of many lesser crimes, but one ill-suited for the scale of offence for which Mr. Megrahi was convicted, demonstrating a degree of consideration that the killer himself never showed his victims.

Since his release, British newspapers have reported Libyan authorities shopped around for physicians prepared to provide a three-month prognosis, and also that compensation was given for medical evidence collected. (The Scottish government holds that the release was based solely on the recommendation of a medical report by the director of health and care at the Scottish Prison Service.) These reports have only served to deepen suspicion and resentment among the families of victims over the circumstances surrounding Mr. Megrahi's release. It follows revelations that trade and oil concessions played a role in the British and Scottish governments' machinations around his release.

No penalty is adequate to the Lockerbie crime, a mid-air bombing in which 270 people, including 11 in their homes, were murdered. But in a society that correctly eschews the use of capital punishment, the sentence given Mr. Megrahi, at 27 years, went at least some way to register revulsion over the crime, and to perhaps have some deterrent value. The decision to release Mr. Megrahi was always wrong, but his persistent longevity as a free man is more than what Prof. Sikora termed "embarrassing," it is a grave injustice.

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