Thursday, 28 July 2011

Lockerbie convict appears at rally in Libya

[This is the headline over an item published yesterday on The Lede blog on The New York Times website. It reads in part:]

Video broadcast on Libyan state television on Tuesday of a rally in support of Col Muammar el-Qaddafi’s government appeared to show Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, that killed 270 people.

The public appearance in Libya comes nearly two years after Mr Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, was released from a Scottish prison on compassionate grounds and said to have just three months to live.

In a copy of the video posted online by London’s Telegraph, Mr Megrahi, a former Libyan intelligence agent, was seated in a wheelchair, wearing a surgical mask. (...)

Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said the footage would stoke further “anger and outrage” at Mr Megrahi’s release from jail in 2009 and was “a further reminder that a great mistake was made,” by Scotland’s local government, the BBC reports. (...)

His continued survival is likely to further anger from some of the families of the victims killed in the bombing. Several American families objected to the release of Mr Megrahi, who served only 8 years of a 27-year minimum sentence. Of the 259 people killed on the plane, 198 were American, and the United States strongly opposed his release. Other victims were killed as the wreckage of the plane plunged to earth in Lockerbie.

Scottish politicians from opposition parties reacted to the footage with anger, Scotland’s STV reports. Iain Gray, of the Scottish Labour Party, called Mr Megrahi’s appearance an “embarrassment” for Mr MacAskill, and the leader of the Scottish government, Alex Salmond. Mr MacAskill and Mr Salmond are leaders of the ruling Scottish National Party.

John Lamont, a Scottish Conservative, said: “The last thing relatives of the 270 people murdered by the Lockerbie bomber need to see is the sight of him alive and well and free, almost two years after he was released by the SNP government.”

Complicating the debate is the fact that the relatives of some people killed in the bombing continue to doubt that Mr Megrahi was responsible for the attack and have called for a fresh inquiry.

Christine Grahame, a member of the Scottish Parliament’s justice committee from the Scottish National Party told STV that she believes Mr Megrahi was the victim of a miscarriage of justice, and is “not unhappy” to see him alive.

[This report at least recognises that serious concerns exist over the conviction of Megrahi, something very unusual, and very welcome, in coverage of Lockerbie in the United States. It also (unlike most UK newspapers apart from The Herald) refers to Megrahi as the "Lockerbie convict", which he is, and not as the "Lockerbie bomber", which, on the evidence, he is not.

An altogether more sensationalist and unbalanced report appears in today's edition of the British tabloid Daily Mirror under the headline Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could be put back behind bars. It reads in part:]

Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi could be sent back to prison after Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed the medical evidence that clinched his freedom. (...)

Mr Hague said: “His appearance on television is a further reminder that a great mistake was made when he was released. This was absolutely the wrong thing to do.

“It shows the medical advice it was based on was pretty much worthless.

“I think the anger and outrage of many people, particularly the families of those killed at Lockerbie, will be further intensified by what we have seen.”

Scottish Labour leader Iain Gray said: “Seeing al-Megrahi as a cheerleader for a dictator indicted for war crimes has turned the stomach of our nation.”

A senior Foreign Office source said Libyan rebels could hand al-Megrahi, 59, back to Britain or ­extradite him to the US if they topple Gaddafi.

[Yet more coverage of William Hague's defamatory comments about the medical advice on which Kenny MacAskill acted. Don't newspapers have their reports legalled any more?

A typically inflammatory editorial in the Daily Mail headed "Libya is a stain on Britain’s conscience" can be read here.]

1 comment:

  1. By the way, still have an answer pending the US Constitutionality of re-trying Megrahi in the US.

    The contact in NY was actually reporting on the Norway shooting live on air and on the spotting of Megrahi...

    So, I suspect he has been just a bit busy.

    As soon as I know, y'all will know too.