Sunday, 20 November 2016

Nothing to gain and much to lose yet he chose compassion

[What follows is the text of an article by Lucy Adams that appeared on the website of The Herald on this date in 2009. It reads as follows:]

Officials in Westminster and the Crown Office are still arguing about what information should or should not be shared with the public and politicians are fighting over each other to say I told you so.
Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is still alive. The man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing is still sharing in the world’s oxygen supply and there are many who wish he were not. Later this week or this month those politicians are bound to call for the resignation of the minister who released Megrahi exactly three months ago.
Kenny MacAskill, the Justice Secretary, released Megrahi on August 20 on compassionate grounds because he is dying. The guidelines suggest that those prisoners with a life expectancy of three months or less should be considered for such a move.
Mr MacAskill had nothing to gain and much to lose yet he chose compassion over retribution. The UK Government had a great deal to gain from the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) signed off between Westminster and Libya earlier this year. When I interviewed Saif Gaddafi in August he made clear that the deal was all about oil and money.
Although Mr MacAskill rejected the PTA, scores of people in the US threatened to boycott Scotland and its exports.
Those with a sense of perspective praised the decision of Scotland in the face of condemnation from the US and a chilling silence from Westminster.
Even they may now question the decision of Mr MacAskill, but where is the consistency in praising compassion for a man with only three months to live, and criticising compassion for a man who lives for three months and two weeks?
Megrahi is desperately ill but he is still alive. Imagine that now he is back with family in Tripoli he may live for four or five months. Should our patience with compassion run out so quickly that we begin to wish him dead?
Would it not be more constructive at this stage to support the living in finding answers to what happened to their loved ones?
Rather than calling for the resignation of the Justice Secretary, should we not focus on the way forward. Without knowing the truth about the past the path forward will always seem uncertain.
We must allow the relatives a public inquiry to deal with the questions from the past and leave the ghoulish spectacle of a man dying in Libya alone to allow him to spend his few remaining days in peace.
Vying to be the most outspoken, punitive, secretive or draconian does nothing for Scotland’s international reputation. We need to show that compassion is not just for Christmas and that openness and transparency from those still refusing to share vital information, will not be tolerated.


  1. As time has passed more information has emerged. It is now clear that compassion had nothing to do with it. The Cameron government and the Americans did not want a second appeal to take place. Nor did the Scottish government. They were heartily relieved that the story would now go away. No more challenges in court, no more questions. The man would die in a far away place, and history would move on.

  2. Kenny MacAskill said that Alex Salmond wanted the appeal to continue and I think I believed him. He didn't say what he himself wanted. Well, it seems that imperatives were such that the First Minister of Scotland didn't get what he wanted.