He’s “going home to die” in the company of family, friends, and well-wishers. His victims were not so fortunate.
(CNN) — Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is to be released and allowed to return to Libya on compassionate grounds, Scotland’s justice minister said Thursday.
Al Megrahi, 57, is suffering from terminal prostate cancer. He is serving a life sentence for bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill told a news conference in Edinburgh the prisoner was “going home to die” and could be released within an hour of the announcement.
“Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion available,” MacAskill said. “Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown.”
The Pan Am flight exploded December 21, 1988, as it flew over Scotland on its way from London to New York. All 259 people aboard the plane died, along with 11 Scots on the ground.
A Scottish court ruled in 2003 that al Megrahi must serve at least 27 years of his sentence before becoming eligible for parole. Al Megrahi first appealed the conviction in 2002 and lost.
Families of the Lockerbie victims have been divided on whether al Megrahi should be ever be released.
The United States has made clear to the British government and others that it believes al Megrahi should spend the rest of his time in jail. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called MacAskill last week to stress the U.S. opposition to an early release….