Scottish Official Defends Al Megrahi Release

08.24.09 | FL News Team

(Edinburgh, Scotland) -- The Scottish Parliament reconvened one week ahead of schedule today to debate the release of the Lockerbie bomber.  Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill stood by his decision to grant an early release to convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi.  Al-Megrahi was found responsible for the deaths of 270 people on Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.

In a speech to Scottish legislators, MacAskill said the decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was his alone.  Megrahi was freed from a prison in Scotland due to terminal prostate cancer, despite strong protests from U.S. officials and victims' families.  MacAskill called the Pan Am bombing a heinous crime and argued, "our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy may be shown."

MacAskill has come under fierce, growing criticism after al-Megrahi received a hero's welcome in his native Libya.  The Scottish justice chief said the hero's welcome was deeply regrettable.  Al-Megrahi is thought to have about three months to live.

Meanwhile, American tourists are threatening to cancel their travel plans to Scotland.  A website has even been set up encouraging people to boycott the country.  According to Scotland's tourism agency, Americans made around 340-thousand trips to Scotland last year and pumped around 440-million dollars into its economy.  Many of the 270 people killed in the Lockerbie bombing were Americans.