Monday, August 24, 2009


The furore over the compassionate release of El Megrahi has left me pondering. I wanted to write about his release some days ago, but I have felt unable to take a stance. No, I am not sitting on the sidelines or quietly hiding in a cupboard, I have been thinking about this. I know I need to have a lot more information. Am I likely to get it? My answer is no. I will receive no more details, other than what will be allowed into the public domain. The information tumbling out thus far is confusing, and far from sufficient to make a considered judgement in any quarter. There are so many competing, legal, socio- political and global issues and interests that make it difficult to cut to the core.

We do not, in the UK have a great track record of convicting guilty terrorists. Sure, we have some, where the evidence has been indisputably prima facie. My memories return to the imprisonment of the Guildford bombers, who were not. One innocent man died in prison, wherefore compassion then? Agreed that was in the English and not the Scottish legal system.

Just think, if we had a legislature such as exists in America, the electric chair would have been murderously used by on behalf of the State many times, on people later proved innocent of the crimes they were imprisoned and executed for.

The Americans are being portrayed in the media in the U.K as revenge-seekers, baying still for a lynching; they want blood and guts. Let it not be forgotten that after the blowing up of the PanAm plane over Lockerbie, the Americans bombed Libya. Ghadafi's young daughter- another innocent- was killed.

The Scots appear to be more circumspect, except for a number of the opposition politicians who have multiple agendas of their own. Joe public in Scotland is divided on the release of El Megrahi (though, I would hazard a guess, not evenly). The U.K. Prime Minister, no lover of the Scottish National Party, is currently holding his counsel, while his Foreign Minister cries 'foul' at any accusations of any possible involvement in the decision that the Scots Minister for Justice MacAskill, has taken. It is convenient for the Scottish Parliament to take the rap for a controversial decision that has global ramifications. we have not seen them all yet.

Through all this obfuscation there are questionable evidential snippets seeping into the rivulets of public consciousness. Was valid evidence, ( a breaking and entering at Heathrow) kept from the hearing till the last minute? It is a game that the prosecution may have played in order scupper an important defence point; did this happen in El Megrahi's trial? Was this matter properly examined, was it was put out into the Court's domain? It is suggested that the shop proprietrix who identified the accused, was shown leading material, magazine pictures of him, a week prior to her formal identification. If this is so, it immediately weakens that 'vital' piece of evidential material. If all this was known by the time the trial took place in The Hague, why was it ignored, or hidden from public and legal scrutiny?

I am doubtful that only one person was involved in the bomb plot. I believe there is a wider conspiracy in this matter, (there are hints linking Syria and Iran) which we probably will never know anything much about in our lifetimes.

Like many people, I remember when the Lockerbie distaster happened. I remember the shock. Living in Scotland, as I do, I felt pain and I felt violated. My feelings were nothing compared to those who lost their loved ones. I do not forget that. Like survivors of WW2, who also lost loved ones, and likewise, those of more recent conflicts, there is a time when life has to move on. I am not sure that this story is going to be allowed to.

The best we can hope for is an enquiry with acceptable terms and a trustworthy remit. This has to be so, out of respect for the families who live on, and so that we can come to some conclusions, if not resolution, in this matter.


TG said...

I myself also seem not to be able to have a good stance on this issue. I watched CNN's interview with the Scots minister for Justice MacAskill and I could understand his point. it's weid though, that there's no precedent on such a matter. If there was one, his reasonong would appear stronger. I can understand people who lost a love one in this matter. They're angry and they have the right to be. I'm always thinking if there's some business behind, between Scotland and Gadafi, because money solves issues rather quickly.

ZACL said...

Why do you say there are no precedents for compassionate release? I have not seen the CNN interview, I therefore presume that is what you are referring to. Compassionate release of convicted prisoners is enshrined in Scots law; therefore, I assume such a point would have grown out of some experience at some time.

Whether there is a precedent or not for compassionate release for a person convicted of terrorism is a different and specifically person-based and situation-based question. That being so, I would not expect there to be a precedent for that in recent history.

I think the issues are being totally mixed up here. As I said, it is difficult to cut through to the core because there is so much obfuscation.

There are suggestions of desirable trade links with the UK (not just Scotland) in this matter. Scotland on its own would not wield much clout. A UK wide (London) initiated business agreement is much more likely to.

I am unsure about the total sincerity of the American Government's indignation about this. How much of it, I ask, is for their public consumption? We have a saying here that goes...."Methinks he protests too much". It may well be apposite in this scenario.

Time will tell. I remain unable to take a clear stance on this issue.

TG said...

I felt that CNN was very biased, they only had critics of your minister commenting, they were angry. Among their remarks, i heard that there wasn't a precedent to such a release in Scotland. I don't really know. All I know is that Americans tend to protest excessively, especially about what other countries do, while they tortured and abducted innocent people or put to death quite few innocent people with their questionable death penalty... I think the reaction is overblown. 20 years in prison is afterall a long time, it's not like he was released after 1 year.

ZACL said...

We only saw angry Americans, relatives and so on, for the BBC news. When the Scots were approached, there were a wider range of responses, not all favourable, but much more measured in their thinking. One guy, a medical doctor, who lost his daughter and grand-daughter on the PanAm flight, remains unsure to this day that the right person was convicted. He has many doubts.

A life sentence is usually twenty years, (England is the same) some prisoners may be released earlier than that if it can be shown they are safe to release back into the community. Other prisoners will serve the full term. Yet again, there are other prisoners who have received indeterminate sentences -meaning no set time has been put on their punishment - but there will be a minimum requirement stated before any other considerations can be made, about what is going to be allowed; for example, supervised release, low level security or, whether they stay in standard prison arrangements till the end of their days.