This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
For a dead man, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi is surprisingly lifelike.
Al-Megrahi was the only person convicted in the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing that killed 270 people, including 189 Americans. Scotland assured the world that he was at death’s door a year ago, with only about three months to live. That qualified him for a compassionate release after serving eight years of a 27-year minimum sentence.
Yet al-Megrahi, who went home to Libya to a hero’s welcome, is still alive a year later. Were the Scottish doctors so incompetent that they were unable to better diagnose the terrorist’s condition?
Or was something else going on?
There’s no little suspicion that British Petroleum – yes, the oil giant so popular in this country already – played a role in securing al-Megrahi’s release. BP supposedly was doing the bidding of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi in order to gain access to his country’s oil reserves. And Gadhafi’s son has admitted that al-Megrahi’s status was a sticking point in trade talks with Britain.
Scotland’s justice secretary vehemently denies any notions that outside influences were at work in al-Megrahi’s release and likens them to conspiracy theories about Elvis. Yet questions remain whether due diligence was done in vetting the terrorist for release – which just feeds the suspicions that a fix was in.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the specialists who treated al-Megrahi’s cancer were never consulted by the non-specialist who certified his condition as terminal. And al-Megrahi had disclosed his plan to begin chemotherapy at a doctor’s suggestion – which should have been a big clue that he was not three months from death.
U.S. senators and even President Obama want answers from the highest level of British government. They’ve discussed the release with Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to the United States which began Tuesday.
Scotland should release the medical reports that led officials there to conclude al-Megrahi was close to death. And it should explain why the terrorist was allowed to go home to Libya instead, as the U.S. State Department requested, of being kept in Scotland in order to avoid a “welcoming reception.” The U.S. had also sought an independent medical exam to confirm that al-Megrahi’s life expectancy was less than three months.
Neither request was granted. And as U.S. officials feared, al-Megrahi was greeted by Gadhafi and a jubilant throng when he arrived in Libya. Many of the celebrants were waving Scottish flags.
What a slap in the face to the loved ones of the 270 who died. They deserve to know why a terrorist who obviously was not about to die received the kind of compassion he did not give his victims.