Release of Lockerbie bomber had to happen under legal system

FOLLOWING the prison release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, US campaigners are calling for Americans to boycott Britain. The decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he has terminal cancer was taken by the independe

FOLLOWING the prison release of Lockerbie bomber, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, US campaigners are calling for Americans to boycott Britain.

The decision to release al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds because he has terminal cancer was taken by the independent Scottish administration.

But calls are being made for Americans to cancel trips to the UK, avoid British goods, and even target British banks and oil firm BP.

It is easy to be swept up in the widespread furore of the decision to release the man found to be responsible for causing the deaths of 270 people, but it is worth remembering that a number of the victims' families think the release of al-Megrahi was the right decision.


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For instance, Martin Cadman, who lost his son Bill, supported the decision on compassionate grounds. And Dr Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora, said that "on reasonable human grounds it is the right thing to do".

In the face of such adversity, it is essential we hold on to our own humanity, and it is imperative that a judicial system is objective if it is to be effective.

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I am not saying the release of al-Megrahi sits comfortably with me. However, his release was consistent with Scotland's legal system, which allows for the liberation of prison inmates who are terminally ill.

To bow to pressure and deviate from this system because of a groundswell of public opinion would be a grave mistake. Inevitably it would destabilise the judicial system and have far-reaching consequences.

Whether the legal system itself needs to be changed is a different matter, and worth consideration.

THE very public gender row over Caster Semenya, the 800m gold medallist at the World Athletics Championships, is sickening.

If the athlete is indeed female, as I believe, having to undergo gender verification tests will undoubtedly have seen her self-esteem and self-confidence hit rock bottom. But to also have the whole world privy to the situation and to be watching and waiting for the results must be utterly humiliating.

There has undoubtedly been a gross violation of human rights and the athlete's right to privacy.

There has been a catastrophic breach of confidentiality and heads should roll for it.

I applaud South Africa's parliament for preparing to file a complaint with the United Nations Commissioner over the athlete's treatment, but unfortunately the damage done to this youngster is irreversible.

EARLIER this month the decision was taken to drop the traditional practice of walking backwards from the Queen.

The custom dates back to Medieval times, when it was considered very impolite to turn your back on the sovereign.

Now only Charles Gray, the Marshal of the Diplomatic Corps, Wing Commander Andy Calame, the Queen's equerry, and the Lord Chancellor, currently Jack Straw, are expected to walk backwards when leaving the monarch's presence.

I think the tradition should have been scrapped long ago, but not on the grounds of health and safety, as is the case. People simply should not be expected to bow and scrape to an unelected head of state.

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