Cameron condemns Lockerbie bomber's release

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The decision to free Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was greeted with mixed reactions today.

Conservative Party leader David Cameron said: "I think this is wrong and it's the product of some completely nonsensical thinking, in my view.

"This man was convicted of murdering 270 people, he showed no compassion to them, they weren't allowed to go home and die with their relatives in their own bed and I think this is a very bad decision."

But Tam Dalyell, the former Labour MP and ex-father of the House of Commons, who has persistently claimed that Megrahi was innocent, said today: "Mr MacAskill, the Scottish Justice Minister, has arrived at the right decision on compassionate grounds.

"I do not accept his endorsement of the guilt of Mr Megrahi, whom I continue to believe had nothing whatsoever to do with the crime of Lockerbie."

Kara Weipz, 36, who lost her student brother Rick, 20, in the atrocity, condemned the decision.

Speaking from her home in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, she said: "I think it's an absolutely horrible decision.

"I don't know how you show compassion to someone who has shown no remorse for what he has done and as Mr MacAskill praised the justice system and the investigation and the trial, how do you then show this person compassion? It's just utterly despicable.

"I think he should have died in prison. Why should he be returned to Libya?

"That's not what we were promised. We were always told he would serve out his full sentence in Scotland."

Scottish Labour criticised the decision to release Megrahi.

Labour leader and MSP Iain Gray said: "If I was First Minister, Megrahi would not be going back to Libya. The decision to release him is wrong.

"He was convicted of the worst terrorist atrocity in our history, the mass murder of 270 people.

"While one can have sympathy for the family of a gravely ill prisoner, on balance our duty is to honour and respect the victims of Lockerbie and have compassion for them.

"The SNP's handling of this case has let down Scotland."

Jean Berkley, 78, lost her son Alistair, 29, who was killed as he travelled to New York to spend Christmas with his parents.

Mrs Berkley, who now lives near Hexham in Northumberland, said it was disappointing that many questions would be left unanswered because Megrahi has dropped his appeal.

She said: "Our big disappointment about the circumstances of this is that he had unnecessarily dropped his appeal, because he didn't need to drop the appeal in order to have compassionate release.

"We were, of course, attaching a lot of importance to the appeal, which was going to present evidence, new evidence.

"The Scottish Criminal Cases Review said there were grounds for the appeal and we cannot now hear the evidence that made them come to that decision.

"We know very little really and we are not in a position really to make a judgment about whether Megrahi was involved or not.

"We are left with a mystery here."

Mrs Berkley, who represents UK families who lost relatives in the attack, said they want a full independent inquiry into the atrocity.

Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken MSP said: "This matter has been badly handled. If there is a case for compassionate release Megrahi should not have been allowed to leave Scotland.

"His family had a home in Scotland up until December of last year and whilst there would have been short term security difficulties I think that arguments for letting him go to Libya simply do not hold water.

"The Scottish justice system is poorer for today's decision and Mr MacAskill must account to the Parliament for this decision at the earliest opportunity which should be the early recall of Parliament."

SNP MSP Christine Grahame, who has visited Megrahi several times in Greenock prison, welcomed his release.

She said: "I have made no secret of my firm view that Mr Megrahi is innocent of this atrocity.

"It is a view shared by a number of legal experts, other professionals and of course there was significant doubt raised following the investigation by the independent Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission amongst others.

"I appreciate that many US relatives, although not all, take a view that Mr Megrahi is guilty and they are therefore understandably upset by his release.

"I hope that as significant new aspects of this case emerge they will be able to look objectively at that new evidence and reach the conclusion I and others have, namely that there has been a gross miscarriage of justice in relation to the conviction of Mr Megrahi."

She said that a full public inquiry was "imperative".

The Church of Scotland today praised the decision.

Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "This decision has sent a message to the world about what it is to be Scottish.

"We are defined as a nation by how we treat those who have chosen to hurt us. Do we choose mercy even when they did not chose mercy?

"This was not about whether one man was guilty or innocent. Nor is it about whether he had a right to mercy but whether we as a nation, despite the continuing pain of many, are willing to be merciful.

"I understand the deep anger and grief that still grips the souls of the victims' families and I respect their views.

"But to them I would say justice is not lost in acting in mercy. Instead our deepest humanity is expressed for the better. To choose mercy is the tough choice and today our nation met that challenge."

Martin Cadman, 84, who lives in Burnham Market, Norfolk, lost his son Bill, 32.

He welcomed Megrahi's release.

He said: "I'm very pleased he has been released on compassionate grounds because I don't think he was the right person to be there anyway. It is just righting a wrong.

"Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah and others were accused together and Fhimah was not found guilty and Megrahi was, which didn't make sense. The trial was a farce.

"I think he was innocent and he was not involved.

"I don't believe he should have been in prison and I'm very pleased he will be back home with his family very soon."

Jim Swire, who lost his 23-year-old daughter Flora, has been vocal about his belief of Megrahi's innocence and had misgivings about the trial.

He told the BBC: "I don't believe for a moment that this man was involved in the way that he was found to have been involved.

"I feel despondent that the west and Scotland didn't have the guts to allow this man's second appeal to continue because I am convinced had they done so it would have overturned the verdict against him.

"It's a blow to those of us who seek the truth but it is not an ending. I think it is a splitting of the ways.

"As time goes by it will become clear that he had nothing to do with it."