I have a piece in today’s Observer about the proposal to release the Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan convicted of the Lockerbie bombing on compassionate grounds. It is one thing to free the dying Ronnie Biggs – who never hurt anyone. Quite another to release a dying man convicted of the murder of 270 people on any grounds other than that an appeal court has decided that he is not guilty. But it looks as if the Scottish nationalist politicians in charge of the case are preparing to do just that. By my reckoning, he will have served one year for every 30 people he murdered.
I picked up two impressions as I researched the article last week.
1. British relatives of the dead, who do not believe that al-Megrahi is innocent, feel intimidated. The unexamined assumption in polite society is that al-Megrahi is innocent, and that the families of the dead are somehow callous or vicious for denying the obvious. On the BBC Radio 4 news at 5pm on Saturday, the gushing presenter interviewed his Libyan lawyer and never once asked him if he was a servant of a Gadaffi regime, which has sponsored violence across Africa and Europe, or was receiving money from it. More to the point, Radio 4 did not bother to find an interviewee to ask these questions and put the opposing point of view. As far as the BBC was concerned, there was no opposing point of view.
2. The SNP is filled with small-toon politicians who are miles out of their depth. One relative suggested that their main concern was a petty desire to embarrass the Labour government which secured a diplomatic triumph when it negotiated the extradition of the suspects. If they release al-Meghari, they will imply that the trial was a farce and Labour blundered, and that would be a good day’s work as far as the SNP was concerned.
PS Tom Gallagher has a very good post on this at Harry’s Place.