The priest who served Lockerbie when Pan Am Flight 103 was blown up in 1988 said that, though the man convicted of the incident had been ‘released from his torment’ by his death, those affected by the tragedy would remain ‘chained until we know the truth’ behind the bombing.
Mgr Patrick Keegans, now the administrator of St Margaret’s Cathedral in Ayr, told the SCO this week that he believes the Scottish Government’s decision to release Libyan Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds two years ago had now been vindicated, but his and other people’s pursuit of the truth behind the Lockerbie bombing would continue.
He received support in his stance from Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, who said the decision to release Mr Megrahi had shown the ‘maturity and civilisation of the Scottish legal system,’ and from Cardinal Keith O’Brien who, like Mgr Keegans, has signed a declaration published on Sunday calling for a fully independent inquiry into the Lockerbie bombing.
Mr Megrahi died at his home in Libya on Sunday after a long struggle with cancer and Mgr Keegans said it was important to remember that any death was ‘a time of deep grief for the family’ and his ‘prayers and sympathy’ were with Mrs Megrahi and her family.
“However, the horrendous deaths of those who died at Lockerbie, and the suffering of their families are never out of mind,” he said. “And compassion for them is ongoing and unfailing.”
Mgr Keegans said that was why he, along with many others, would continue to pursue the truth behind the Lockerbie bombing.
“Serious doubt over the conviction shared by many people throughout the world,” he said. “This death is a release for him and his family but for the families of those who died, for all of us involved with Lockerbie in many ways we are not released. We are still chained and will be until we know the truth.
Mgr Keegan has joined Cardinal O’Brien, and many high-profile politicians, lawyers and clergymen in signing a statement by the Justice for Megrahi campaign which calls on the Scottish Government to endorse ‘an independent inquiry into this entire affair’ due to what they say are the large number of unanswered questions over the conviction of Mr Megrahi, whom Scottish Secretary of Justice Kenny MacAskill released on compassionate grounds after he was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.
“I do think his release on compassionate grounds was a good thing,” Mgr Keegans said. “It was the right thing for him and I think he would have died a long time ago if he had remained in prison. So I am glad he got to go home, write his book and spend time with his family.”
Archbishop Conti joined the monsignor in praising for decision of the Scottish Government to release Mr Megrahi.
“Irrespective of whether time will confirm or exonerate him from involvement in the atrocity which happened over the skies of Lockerbie, I was supportive of the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi when it was made on compassionate grounds, and I remain sure that it was the right decision,” the archbishop said.