Author: Press Association
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.”
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