Monday, 19 December 2016

A sacrificial lamb

[What follows is the text of an article by Richard Kerbaj that was published in The Times on this date in 2008:]

The wife of the Lockerbie bomber claims that her husband became a sacrificial lamb for the whole of Libya when he agreed to be tried for a crime that he says he did not commit.

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi surrendered his freedom so that his country could free itself from United Nations sanctions and improve its global image, his wife Aisha said.

Mrs al-Megrahi gave a rare interview at the family home near Glasgow, close to the prison where her husband is serving a life sentence for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 that claimed the lives of 270 people in 1988.

“He sacrificed himself for the sake of an entire nation,” she told The Times, in an interview conducted in Arabic.

“They’ll never make up for the absence and they cannot make up for the sadness that has been created,” Mrs al-Megrahi said of the Libyan Government, which supports her family financially. “If they give me all the money in the world that would not make up for his absence.” She said, however, that she and her five children were still thankful for the support provided by Libya.

Mrs al-Megrahi said that she would not have let her husband leave Libya for the Netherlands in 1999 – where the Lockerbie trial took place a year later - if she had known that he would be convicted.

“I didn’t try and advise him against going because I was confident he would return,” she said. “But if I’d known we’d be here ten years later I would have told him not to go.”

Asked if she ever wished that Libya had not extradited her husband, a faint smile emerges on her face before she lowers her gaze. Her silence spoke volumes. It is the silence of a woman torn between her feelings for a man whom she fell in love with at 18 and the country that continues to put food on his family table and pay for their travel home to Libya for religious holidays.

Al-Megrahi, 56, had stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosed in September but was refused bail even though his defence team argued that he did not have long to live. The court ruled that he did not meet the requirement of having less than three months to live.

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