Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi from Libya was jailed for murdering 270 people after Pan Am flight 103 exploded 31,000ft over Lockerbie (a Scottish border town), 38 minutes after take-off from London en route to New York in 1988. He is found guilty of murder after the historic trial under Scottish law in the Netherlands in 2001 and was serving eight years of his life sentence in Glasgow prison until Scottish government released him on compassionate grounds last Thursday, August the 20th. He is suffering from cancer and was expected to have only three months to live.
Al-Megrahi was immediately flown back to Libya by a jet owned by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, and was welcomed as hero. Hundreds of people waved Libyan and Scottish flags as his plane landed at Tripoli airport with Colonel Qaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi holding his hand. He was greeted by none other than the dictator himself and was whisked away to meet his elderly mother. In a split second Scotland has become the target of ferocious international condemnation over its controversial decision. Alex Salmon, the First Minister, insisted that freeing Al-Megrahi would have no long-term effect on Scotland’s “enduring” relationship with the USA which lost 189 of its citizens in the atrocity. However, the diplomatic and political storm shows no sign of abating, with calls in America for a boycott of Scottish exports such as whisky. A website called www.boycottscotland.com also urges American tourists to visit Ireland instead of the UK.
Salmond also said it was the “right decision for the right reasons” and dismissed suggestions that the move was part of a trade deal with Libya – which was heavily indicated by the media, especially when Gaddafi thanked none other than the UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (“my friend, for interceding with the Scottish government to let the man go”), Queen Elizabeth, and her second son, Andrew, Duke of York. Andrew has made a reputation for promoting British business interests in parts of the world where Britain has played down its human rights agenda as it has sought oil deals and other lucrative contracts. He has made several trips to Libya previously, where British energy firms hold large oil and gas contracts, and was scheduled to meet Gaddafi next month but hurriedly canceled his trip to Libya amid growing anger in Britain at the reception granted to Al-Megrahi.