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Jack Simpson - 09/04/09
Scottish Justice

Few of us probably ever heard of Kenny MacAskill, the Scottish Justice secretary, before he was motivated by compassion to release convicted terrorist Abdul al-Megrahi. You may remember al-Megrahi as the person responsible for the deaths of 270 innocent people on the Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

On hearing about the release of this terrorist, people immediately asked why such a thing could happen. Mr. MacAskill claimed the bomber had cancer, was near death, and it was the civilized thing to do to release him to die in the arms of his family.

Others wondered if a trade deal had been struck with the British and they had been asked by Libya to release al-Megrahi. Who knows what the true answer really is?

Anyway, this bomber was turned loose to return to a hero's welcome in Libya. The world looked on wondering what kind of precedent was set by the Scottish Justice secretary. Would convicted terrorists everywhere, with health problems, petition their jailers for compassion and release?

This fellow al-Megrahi was a bad one. He caused 270 innocent individuals to die. There were 180 Americans and 52 British subjects on board Pan Am Flight 103. Maybe Mr. MacAskill felt it was no one's business when he made his release decision.

Well, I can tell you, as an American citizen, I felt as did FBI Director Robert Mueller. He said this terrorist's release was "a mockery of justice." What made the release even more bizarre was what we all saw on television. This al-Megrahi went home to a hero's welcome in Libya!

Scenes from there deepened the outrage! Apparently in Libya this releasee was considered a political hostage and a victim. He was warmly greeted on his return home as the rest of the world saw him only for what he was, a convicted terrorist.

Interestingly, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown felt the release of al-Megrahi was "too sensitive for a comment." Families of the 270 victims didn't agree. They felt this release gave comfort to other terrorists. Mr. Brown did feel uncomfortable about the jubilation back in Libya when the bomber deplaned.

Releasing terrorists for compassionate reasons, now and in the future, will have political, security and diplomatic consequences. We can only regret this decision and express our compassion for the victims' family members. Releasing convicted terrorists before their sentences are served is absurd and bound to have international consequences. Yes, particularly if oil may be the reason.

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Jack Simpson is a former educator, veteran, author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.