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By Micah Halpern

August 26, 2009


Being nice is not always the best policy.

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was the driving force behind the decision to free Abdel Baset al Megrahi, the Lockerbie terrorist. The Libyans lobbied the Scotts long, hard and well. They charmed the Scotts and made them great promises. Libya said many things in order to secure the release of Megrahi. And then they played the trump card. Megrahi was old, he was sick, he was dying.

And once the mass murderer from Libya was free, Libya laughed in the face of the world. All bets were off. All promises were null and void. They had their man and that was all that ever mattered.

Right now the justice minister from Scotland is blistering. He feels, correctly enough, used by the Libyans. The Libyans did not live up to their bargain. But why would anyone ever expect them to? History and experience have proven over and over that Muammar Ghadaffi is not to be trusted. It was, after all, the Libyan government's intelligence branch that planned and executed the Lockerbie terror attack - Megrahi was merely the figurehead of the deadly operation.

On December 21, a Wednesday in 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 took off from Heathrow Airport in London bound for the US. The jet liner blown up just after it reached about 31,000 feet. All two hundred and seventy people aboard the plane were murdered, blown up by a bomb that had been planted on the Pan Am plane. What remained scattered over an, until then little known, city called Lockerbie, Scotland.

Many of the victims, one hundred and seventy of them, were Americans. Most of those were students from Syracuse University returning home after completing a semester abroad learning about different cultures and traditions, learning about people who are different from Americans. The bomb was brought onto the plane by Megrahi's girlfriend. She, too, was a passenger on the plane -carrying a parting gift given her by Megrahi, a tape recorder with a bomb planted inside. Abdel Baset al Megrahi thought nothing of using his girl friend as his mule, as a tool with which he could transport his murderous weapon. And he thought nothing of sending her to her death.

Libya just recently took responsibility for blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 and has made restitution to the families of the victims, the exact settlement sums are still undisclosed. Libya owned up to the terrorist attack because now the Libyans have decided to embark on another mission. Libya has tried and tried successfully to get out of the international doghouse in which they have been placed. Accepting responsibility for the event over Lockerbie went a long way towards proving their new intentions, especially in the view of the United States State Department.

On January 31, 2001 Megrahi was convicted in a Scottish court and sentenced to life in a Scottish prison. Nowadays, Scotland is trying to become independent of the United Kingdom. The Scots want to assert themselves and show that they will not genuflect to either 10 Downing Street or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And so, when Libya approached the government of Scotland about freeing Megrahi it sounded like the perfect opportunity. It would be even better if Scotland secured trade deals with Libya along with the release, that would be sure proof that the Scots can be independent and effectually, stand on their own as a country.

Scotland agreed to release Megrahi on humanitarian grounds because he was dying of terminal prostate cancer. Libya promised to keep Megrahi's release quiet and not to turn the terrorist's return home into a media spectacle.

Libya lied. Megrahi came home to a hero's welcome. Parades, cheering crowds and the son of Muammar Ghadaffi were all there to greet the returning murderer. Libya reneged on the promise and Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was shocked.

Perhaps the justice minister should have consulted with the health minister. Just because someone has a terminal illness and is "supposed" to die does not mean that that person is on a deathbed and dying. Sheik Ahmed Yassin comes immediately to mind.

Sheik Yassin was known as the blind Sheik. Confined to a wheelchair and imprisoned in Israel, he was the spiritual leader of Hamas. Yassin was released from prison, traded back to the Palestinians and returned to Gaza. Why? Because everyone was convinced that the blind Sheik was on his deathbed, they believed that he had only a few days left to live. Five years and many terrorist attacks later Israel targeted Yassin in a helicopter gunship raid that brought down the Sheik and the entire building he was in.

People who murder hundreds of other people should not get humanitarian reprieves. Terrorist are not entitled a break. Terrorist are not like other criminals.

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4 June 2017 12:13 PM in Columns

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