US families outraged at release of Lockerbie bomber

WASHINGTON - Relatives of those killed in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing expressed outrage Thursday at the release of the only man convicted of the crime as he returned to Libya to a hero's welcome.
Victims' families lined up to condemn Scotland's decision to release terminally ill Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds, recoiling at images of a flag-waving crowd greeting the 57-year-old in Tripoli.

US families outraged at release of Lockerbie bomber
Stephanie Bernstein, whose husband was killed along with 269 others on Pan Am Flight 103, said al-Megrahi's welcome home showed the "naivete" of Scotland's Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill and US President Barack Obama.
"It represents naivete, that somehow releasing this man was the right thing to do. We saw he was greeted with a hero's welcome in Tripoli this evening and I'm sad to say I think our president is naive as well," she told CNN.
Earlier, Obama described the release a "mistake," and called on Libya to ensure "he's not welcomed back in some way," but instead put under house arrest.
Amid a storm of fury on this side of the Atlantic, MacAskill rallied to defend his decision to allow Megrahi, who is terminally ill with prostate cancer, to go home rather than serve out a life sentence.
"Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion be available. Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown," he said.
But his comments only served to fuel the indignation.
"You are talking about a mass murderer," said Susan Cohen. "You commit mass murder, an act of terror, kill all of those innocent young people... and you are released for compassion?"
Cohen's only daughter Theodora, a 20-year-old drama student at Syracuse University, was flying home for the holidays on December 21, 1988 when it exploded over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland.
"You want to feel sorry for anyone, please feel sorry for me, feel sorry for my poor daughter, her body falling a mile through the air," Cohen said.
Outraged relatives of the victims asked why so ruthless a terrorist should be granted compassion when their own loved ones died so violently.
They reserved particularly harsh words for Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who made the controversial decision.
"I am shocked that this one man can make this decision and allow this person to go back to Libya," said Kathleen Flynn, who lost her 21-year-old son JP at Lockerbie, speaking to Fox television.
Cohen, who called the Scottish government's decision "appalling," questioned the veracity of the medical reason given for his release.
"This is about the appeasement for oil," she told CNN television. "Big oil interests are in this. Lots of lobbyists," she said.
Like other relatives, she questioned how one public official could have the authority to free an individual found guilty of killing so many victims.
"We went to the trials and everything and there were three or five judges making all the decisions," she said.
"I don't think anybody should have had that authority to (free Megrahi)," she said.
Bert Ammerman, who lost his brother in the disaster, asked in a teleivison interview "where is the compassion for the victims and the families that have to live with this for the rest of our lives?"
For his part, MacAskill resisted political pressure from families and from other governments, including from the United States in making the decision to release Megrahi.
He said Megrahi could return to Libya to die because Scottish law required that "justice be served but mercy be shown."
"For these reasons, and these reasons alone, it is my decision that (Megrahi)... be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die," he said.
"Our justice system demands that justice be imposed but compassion be available, our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown," he said in announcing the release.

Friday, August 21st 2009

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