[This is the headline over an article by Stephen Blease in today's edition of the News & Star, a newspaper circulating in the Carlisle area. It reads as follows:]
With Libya in the news again, there has been more argument over the compassionate release of Abelbaset al-Megrahi , the man accused of the Lockerbie bombing.
We might ask whether a mass murderer deserves compassion. But is al-Megrahi a mass murderer?
Not everyone thinks so. Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the 270 people killed, doesn’t think Libya was even involved. And Hans Koechler, an observer at the trial, called al-Megrahi’s treatment “a spectacular miscarriage of justice”.
Consider these facts. In July 1988, six months before the Lockerbie attack, the US shot down an Iranian airbus, killing 290 people. The Ayatollah Khomeini vowed that “vengeance would rein down from the skies”.
Iranian officials then met a terrorist group whose favoured tactic was to place explosives inside radio cassette players with timers triggered by air pressure. The remains of radio cassette players were found among the wreckage.
At the time, nobody mentioned Libya. It was only in 1991 during the first Gulf War – when Britain and America wanted Iran on side – that Libya was first accused.
So can we really say al-Megrahi did it beyond reasonable doubt?