Kirk official backs Scottish government decision to release Megrahi

By staff writers
August 23, 2010

The Scottish government was right to release the Libyan man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing on compassionate grounds, an official of the Church of Scotland says.

"The principle behind the release of Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi a year ago was right, compassion, and my views haven't changed since I welcomed his release on 20 August last year," the Rev Ian Galloway, convener of the Presbyterian denomination's church and society council, has told ENInews.

The spiritual leader of Roman Catholics in Scotland has taken a similar stance, criticising the furore in the United States over the decision.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said Scotland had a culture of care, while too many in the US were fixed on vengeance.

The case has been complicated by claims that BP lobbied the UK and Scottish governments over the case, in relation to Libyan oil deals. But no substantial evidence has been offered for this allegation.

Similarly, some politicians say that the release was related to attempts to cover up the failings of the UK and Scottish governments in handling the issue.

The Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill, released Megrahi, who has prostate cancer, after being told that three months was a "reasonable estimate" of his life expectancy.

He has now lived for much longer and subsequent medical opinion suggests that, with alleviative tretament, he may survive for up to two years.

But the Scottish Government is adamant that it made the right decision at the time.

Relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing are divided on the issue, with most in the US opposing Megrahi's release, while many in Britain doubt his guilt on the evidence considered, and are much more upset that the major enquiry they have called for seems destined not to go ahead now.

Cardinal O'Brien declared: "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth - that is not our culture in Scotland and I would like to think that the US government, and these states that do still have capital punishment, would learn something from us."

He appealed to Americans to "direct their gaze inwards" instead of attacking the Scottish justice system, and said the use of the death penalty meant the USA kept "invidious company" with countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"In some states it's month by month now that they are killing people who have a right to live, whatever they've done wrong," he said.

The Catholic leader also backed the Scottish government's decision not to give evidence to American senators investigating Megrahi's release.

The similar opinions of a leading Church of Scotland figure reflect an overwhelming preference for mercy over vengeance among churches in Scotland, a commentator told Ekklesia.


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