The furore continues over the release, on compassionate grounds, of Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi - the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. The sensitivity of the issue makes calm discussion almost impossible, and so many strands get tangled up together when people start to talk about it. As I have read and listened, there seem to be several issues:
- Was the conviction of al-Megrahi safe? There are quite a few people around who believe him to be the fall-guy. It was interesting to hear from someone from Lockerbie on the news the other day who said that a number of residents there never believed the real perpetrator was caught.
- Should people ever be released on compassionate grounds? Some would have a very punitive view for people who have committed serious crimes, and that the price they pay is to go through their illness in jail or a secure hospital. Others would see the possibility of compassionate release as a sign of a civilised society. We have seen the same debate recently in the case of Ronnie Biggs
- Were there prior commitments relating to the trying and detention of al-Megrahi? If there was a prior reassurance that he would be kept in Scotland, then release under licence to hospital/hospice care in Scotland might have been more acceptable to a wider group of people.
- The handling of the release and handover. If he was to return to Libya, why wasn't it done quickly and discreetly, to avoid the scenes at the airport in his home country, which have alienated a lot of those who would have been sympathetic to some form of compassionate release.