By Dustin L. Gee
It’s been nearly twenty years since Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over Lockerbie Scotland and this past week, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, the man convicted for this crime, to the High Court in Edinburgh that he should be released on compassionate ground after a medical test at Inverclyde Royal Hospital indicated he had prostate cancer.
Within hours, this news spread to all corners of the world, reaching family and friends of those who knew passengers on board the transatlantic flight destined for New York City, John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The Chief Executive for the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission describes the Al-Megrahi case as being “the longest, most expensive, and singularly most complex case we have ever had to investigate and review.”
What’s more, it has left millions of people torn and questioning Al-Megrahi’s conviction; “upset,” “outraged,” “surprised,” and “confused” are just a few words that can be used to describe the views and opinions expressed by many Americans on whether or not they agree that Al-Megrahi should be released due to his recent medical condition.
Recent MSNBC coverage reported, “Relatives of the victims of Pan Am 103 (are) divided. Some British families have said they think he should be released, but relatives of U.S. victims have said he is guilty and should remain in jail.”
Kathleen Flynn, USA, who lost her son JP believes that letting Al-Megrahi out on bail makes absolutely no sense. Flynn expressed her views by stating, “Why would we let someone out of jail when they blew up an American plane?”
Bob Monetti, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, whose son Rick was killed, told the BBC, “Al-Megrahi should remain in jail. I have been really upset because most of the people in Scotland seem to have a different opinion on the whole thing.”
Al-Megrahi was found guilty in 2001, and was sentenced to life in prison, with a minimum of 27 years. He served the first part of his sentence in Glasgow’s Barliminni Prison, but was transferred to nearby HMP Greenock in 2005.
So far, Al-Megrahi has spent seven years in prison, but since physicians have diagnosed him with advanced prostate cancer, his lawyers are striving to have him released to spend his remaining days with his wife and children. If released on bail, Al-Megrahi would be required to remain in Scotland. He appeared in court on Friday, 14 November in front of Lord Justice General Lord Hamilton.
A Scottish court correspondent reported Lord Hamilton as saying, “The critical question, as the court sees it, is, against the background of the atrocity of which the applicant stands convicted, whether the applicant’s health, present and prospective, is such as the court should on compassionate grounds now admit him bail.”
He then went on to state, “On balance the court is not persuaded, on the information before it, that it should. While the disease from which the appellant suffers is incurable and may cause his death, he is not at present suffering material pain or disability.”
The final court ruling was that Al-Megrahi would remain in prison and not be granted bail. Lord Hamilton ensured all those present at the trial, “The full services of the National Health Service are available to him, notwithstanding he is in custody.”
US Citizens were relieved by this news, but still worried that Al-Megrahi may get out as a written opinion from the judge commented that they might reconsider their decision if his condition worsens.
Later this month, over 250 people will gather at A Place for Remembrance on the Syracuse University campus for a memorial service to commemorate the 20th Anniversary, since thirty-five of the passengers on board the Pan Am flight were exchange students from Syracuse University, located in New York State.
The press office at Syracuse University did not wish to comment on the release or medical condition of Al-Megrahi.
Dan Cohen of New Jersey, whose daughter Theodora was abroad flight 103 said he was “extremely relieved” at the judges’ decision. “The 20th Anniversary is a very tough day… and it is important that he will still be in jail for it.”