Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Lockerbie: Is there truth? Is there compassion?

The politically charged blame game, feasting on whether a terminally ill man is not dying soon enough, shows no respect to the victims of Lockerbie, the sovereignty of the Scottish legal system or the concept of compassion. It betrays a political process based on a sincerity (if you can fake that, you’ve made it) that comes only from opinion polls. Followers masquerading as leaders.

I have no truck with nationalist politics. But neither do I think that political capital should be made from the barbarism that befell Lockerbie or the difficult decision to release a convicted killer who is – as all agree – terminally ill.

I’d be much more comfortable if I thought the convicted killer had been through a fair process. Many questions have been asked about the conviction. And when a conviction is in such doubt, the howling of the wolves of revenge makes you wonder whether there is something they don’t want you to know. Because if Megrahi is innocent, the real killer is still out there somewhere.

But innocent or not, it does not excuse attacks on basic human compassion. It is always dangerous to imbue a politician with integrity but by all accounts MacAskill took a brave, compassionate and completely legal decision on the best advice available.

Those who seek to make political capital out of this – many I have to say I have respected – would benefit from reading some of these accounts and views.

Ex UNISON activist and full timer Chris Bartter explores the affair in an evidenced and considered post at
"I recall, at the time of Mr MacAskill's decision, thinking that - while he had made some errors in how he acted - his basic decision was one I supported, and I was deeply disappointed in the attitudes of opposition parties (of all shades) who attempted to make political capital. I also thought - and still think that the decision reflected well on Scotland - and the hostility expressed by some (especially American) commentators, reflected poorly on them."

From Marion Woolfson in the Scotsman:  “I had the impression, that whatever individuals' views on release, there was acceptance that it was a difficult decision, arrived at after full investigation could have understood all the pathetic lies if they had come from an American source, but surely the Scots have more sense than to believe the rubbish that we have heard.”

And from the Herald
“Still they do not get it. It should not be a surprise that the heightening clamour over the freeing of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is founded on a massive misunderstanding of the circumstances leading to his release…. The choreography has been so rehearsed that we are now told Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State, and William Hague, Foreign Secretary, agree Megrahi’s release was a mistake. That will play well in America, for all the wrong reasons. But it will serve no positive or substantive purpose in this country. If you must meddle, do so on the basis of fact.”

Just what don’t they get about devolution?
“MacAskill had an enormous decision to make when considering whether to free the man convicted of murdering 270 people and the debate over whether he got it right or wrong remains the focus of controversy. In all the debate it seems to have been forgotten that people suffering from cancer are not given a set date on which to die and MacAskill acted only after considering the medical evidence that Megrahi had around three months to live.”

And a further selection at

“I am fed up with the US assumption that it has the right to interfere with and dictate to the rest of the world. The Americans, and indeed the Westminster government, seem to feel free to ignore the fact that we have our own legal system and that it is based on justice, not revenge.”

“Megrahi is mortally ill; he will certainly die as a result of his affliction and it would have been terrible if, lacking compassion, we had allowed that to happen in a Scottish jail.”

“The decision to release Megrahi was based on compassion, a feature of the Scottish legal system that is apparently unknown in the US. Had the Establishment observed Megrahi’s clear legal and human rights concerning the second appeal he would almost certainly have been released, truly a free man, far earlier than last summer.”

Maybe the last word should be left to UNISON activist Kate Ramsden, whose childhood home was destroyed in the tragedy, writing to the BBC at the time of Megrahi’s release,

Monday, 24 August, 2009, 17:47 GMT 18:47 UK
“I have just seen a picture of my mum's old house in Lockerbie (pic above). She was lucky to get out. The disaster has had a big impact on our family and my mum has friends amongst the American relatives. And yet, both she and I believe that Kenny Mackaskill did the right thing. We don't know if Megrahi is guilty, but even if he is, as my mum says, "two wrongs don't make a right!" We believe that a country that can show compassion rises above a country or individual who cannot. I am proud to be Scottish.”;jsessionid=313F388A040D098C8259081D8E783AA4?messageID=6554951&edition=1&ttl=2009101611312285&start=1200?

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