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Compassion in the Lockerbie release

Mercy has a place in justice, but politics and suspicion obscure it in the case of the Lockerbie bomber released to Libya last week.

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Compassion and mercy are legitimate tools in administering justice. But they lose their meaning when politics enters the picture, as in the case of the release of the "Lockerbie bomber."

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – the only person convicted in the 1988 explosion of a US-bound Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland – was released Aug. 20 after serving eight years of a life sentence amounting to a minimum of 27 years. Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill granted the release, which was requested by the prisoner, on compassionate grounds due to a diagnosed terminal illness.

Mr. Megrahi received a hero's welcome from crowds bused to the Tripoli airport by authorities (contrary to Libyan assurances of a low-key reception). Mr. MacAskill received scathing criticism – especially from American families of the 270 victims of the suitcase bombing of Flight 103, and also from US officials.

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