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Saturday, August 22, 2009

The final betrayal of the Lockerbie innocents

The release of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only man ever convicted of the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988, represents a new nadir for anyone who cares about justice.

The ailing 57-year-old claims he's been the victim of a miscarriage of justice; it's true that his conviction is extremely questionable. As Robert Fisk explains in The Independent, he might have been a convenient scapegoat.

If he is innocent, it is an outrage that whoever planted the Lockerbie bomb, killing 270 people, has not been brought to book. If he was culpable, it is equally outrageous that he has been released. Sure, he has terminal cancer, but so what? Compassionate grounds should not apply to someone who sentenced scores of innocent people to terrifying deaths and their families to life sentences of unremitting grief.

At the root of all of this though is not justice; as usual, it is money. The horror of that night 21 years ago, and only four days before Christmas, is unforgettable. And yet our politicians and business leaders are more than happy to wipe it from their memories and cash in on the West's rapprochement with Libya. It is sickening almost beyond belief that a couple of decades is enough to reduce the slaughter of innocents to a economic bargaining chip.

Perhaps in 2022 the West will be feting Osama Bin Laden if he promises to allow construction of a new M&S in his cave in the Swat Valley.

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