February 13 2011
small edits 2/14
The following started out as a comment beneath an article by Roger Simon in the Chicago Sun Times called "Lockerbie Bomber Having a good laugh." I've fixed some typos and errors and addressed a couple more of his, in addition to the general history I laid down for Chicago's readers.
I’ve read Mr. Simon's article, and noticed a shedload of errors of fact and presumption that will need more correction than I have space for here. For one, Megrahi is almost certainly not laughing. However premature that prognosis was, he is by now in a coma, last I heard, and only technically alive. And the whole decade of wrongful incarceration, the cruelty of justice made a mockery for his and his family’s and his nation’s torment, has, I understand, left him less than giddy. Even after the obvious relief of going home.
When I wrote about this at the time, I asked why, if a mass murderer had only weeks to live, not just let him die in prison?The law in Scotland says he should be released if that's the case. Like Mr. Simon, the U.S. government asked that MacAskill should break the law and force this prisoner to die in prison. Conservatives ripped on the White House for having the temerity to even acknowledge the possibility the Scots would follow the law and release him to a non-prison hospital. They insisted it be in Scotland, not Libya.
A former Libyan intelligence agent, Megrahi was arrested and charged and then used every detail, wrinkle and technicality afforded by Western justice to escape his fate.
Proceedings dragged on for years, and it wasn’t until Jan. 31, 2001, that a three-judge Scottish panel finally convicted him. Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison.
Mr. al-Megrahi was arrested in the Netherlands, where he and his co-accused Mr. Fhimah had surrendered themselves in April 1999, on finally having a chance in a third country venue all parties could agree to. It was the deadlock over unreasonable demands from Washington, not the trial, that took years. Megrahi wanted to beat the rather silly charges, but feared that he'd be tried unfairly and then killed in a U.S. trial as demanded. Further, Gaddafi forbade him to go that route. So, sanctions, thousands dead, but let's just gloss over that part...
Both Libyans were in prison for over a year before the trial started in May 2000, running about eight months total, with frequent breaks. The bizarre verdict was Fhimah not guilty, mostly because everything the star witness said was a lie and even the judges said so. And Megrahi, the man with no known accomplice when he needed at least one to have done it, was indeed sentenced to life.
The wrinkles most definitely worked against him.
A life sentence in Scotland is different than in America, a point not explained in Simon's article. There, it means until you're ruled within three months of death. Even if that prognosis is flawed, it's made by the prison doctor (Dr. Andrew Fraser in this case) and the Secretary is required to release the prisoner ... after something mysterious is worked out, in this case.
What makes Simon's whining about procedures or prognoses he doesn't like any better than that of Jim Swire, Robert Black, Hans Koechler, Michael Mansfield, Oliver Miles, Robert Baer, etc., when they question the verdict reached? If the law means guilty is guilty, then dying is dying, and everyone knows no prognosis is perfect. You alleging a conspiracy? Hey, so are some of us!
But otherwise, let’s skip the specifics so crookedly scribbled into this article, and consider what it is really about. It’s full of protest, but I note that no amount of complaining will have Megrahi returned to prison now. Something else seems to be animating this.
Some of us know that the real picture behind the scenes is Megrahi’s well-known innocence of the ridiculous charges he was amazingly convicted over. The legal reality must seem the same at the physical one, no matter how tricky that is. Thus his promising second appeal, granted by the official legal body SCCRC to address its concerns of a “miscarriage of justice,” was quietly the main area of focus. Fellow Americans – never even heard of it, have you?
The Labor Brits duplicitously did all they could for a Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which, among other things, required abandoning all appeals. And the scape-goated Scots, all but entrapped into the situation, despised the PTA deal and pulled off a miracle – their own way home (“compassion”) for the “bomber,” made mysteriously conditional on an appeal surrender. Megrahi said he was led to believe that was the case, and while the SNP insist no way, he was released for non-appeal-related reasons only after - two whole days after - the appeal was dead. His own choice, for s#!%s and giggles, we're to presume.
And then back to this article and the many like it: now that they’ve served their purpose regarding Megrahi, the SNP are expendable – the stick we used to scrape some dog crap off our shoes. U.S. and U.K media are now freely serving their nations’ foreign policy goals of smearing the SNP who, coincidentally, are pursuing a program towards independence from the U.K.. That’s not something we hear much about in the states, but I suspect it’s the real reason they’re so hated. We encourage the Yugoslavias of the world to fragment, not the United Kingdoms.
Feathering the SNP in their Megrahi-tar to assist the foreign policy objective is a goal that could still be served by extended ill-iformed whine sessions like Mr. Simon’s. Serving justice is not, not when there’s such a serious likelihood the real bombers were never once caught and sent to jail for even a day, escaping under the cover our blame-Libya cartoon detour. Talk about “giving comfort to terrorists around the world,” huh?