I have the impression that not a few of the people who criticised Jack Straw when he refused to release train robber, Ronnie Biggs, are the same people who are now criticising the Scottish government for releasing the so-called Lockerbie bomber'. Biggs did not kill anyone (although he and his accomplices ruined the train driver's life) so of course there is no comparison between the killing of 270 people and the train robbery, but both Biggs and al-Megrahi have only a few months to live and one wonders what useful purpose would be served by insisting that they die in prison. Can we not show compassion to the presumably innocent family and friends of the Libyan, as we eventually did to the son of the train robber?
Of Biggs' guilt there was no doubt, but as Ray Fleming pointed out (Viewpoint Sunday, August 23 2009) there are serious doubts about al-Megrahi's conviction. In the aftermath of the bombing, investigators were convinced that Iran was responsible, as the Americans that same year had shot down an Iranian airliner, killing 290 people. In 1990 the invasion of Kuwait made it expedient to improve relations with Iran and it seems that the Iranian leads to the Lockerbie bombing were dropped. To cut a long story short, al-Megrahi was convicted on the basis of evidence given by a Maltese shopkeeper, who now lives in luxury in Australia. To understand the welcome given to al-Megrahi on his return to the Libyan capital, one has to understand that most Libyans believe he is innocent.
I have followed the antics of Gadaffi since he deposed the Libyan king, 40 years ago next week and I am relieved that since the visit of Tony Blair to the Colonel's tent five years ago, we have had, if not always friendly, at least respectful relations, despite the fact that our American allies dropped a bomb on his daughter some years ago. I hope that these relations go from strength to strength, even at the cost of releasing a dying prisoner who could not be properly treated in prison.
In today's troubled times we need all the friends (especially Arab friends) we can get.
George Tunnell, Calvia