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Why Is A Convicted Terrorist A Free Man Right Now?

Submitted by on August 23, 2010 – 10:00 am2 Comments

Terrorism is a hot topic in the news again. Not because an act of terrorism took place (thankfully) but because there are apparently plans for a mosque to be built just two blocks away from Ground Zero in New York City. Those affected by the terrorism that took place on September 11 are outraged and are calling for the city of New York and even President Barack Obama to stop the mosque from being built.

However, in another part of the world, there’s an even bigger injustice going on in regards to terrorism—and it doesn’t seem to be getting enough media attention right now. In Libya, a man by the name of Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi is living out the remainder of his life in his native country. Last August, at age 57, Al-Megrahi was stricken with prostate cancer. Doctors gave him less than three months to live. He decided to try and make the most of it.

The only problem? Al-Megrahi was serving a 27-year sentence for his role in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Soctland in December 1988 that resulted in the deaths of 270 people.

I happen to know a little bit about that tragic flight because my step-grandmother’s husband was the co-pilot of Pan Am Flight 103. While I haven’t had the opportunity to sit down and talk much about it with her, I’ve heard stories of how she’s still dealing with the aftermath. Aside from the fact that she lost her husband to a senseless act of terrorism—which must have taken an emotional toll on her, the level of which I cannot even imagine—she’s also had to deal with memorial services, anniversaries of the act and, most notably, the release of Al-Megrahi from prison in August 2009.

That’s right. Despite killing 270 people by participating in a plot to take down an aircraft, Al-Megrahi is currently a free man. He’s free because, under Scottish law, a prisoner can be freed on compassionate grounds. And because doctors gave Al-Megrahi just three months to live with a terminal case of cancer, Scottish authorities decided to let him walk free and live out the rest of his life outside of their prison walls.

I know the world isn’t a fair place. But that’s just not right. For starters, it’s pretty easy to argue that Al-Megrahi shouldn’t have been released from prison in the first place. He served just seven years of his 27-year prison sentence and didn’t come remotely close to paying for the crimes he committed. His release sends a terrible message to rest of the world. Secondly, assuming Scotland could make a strong enough case and convince the world what they were doing was the right thing, Al-Megrahi should have been monitored closely and immediately been sent back to prison if his condition did get better. I would never wish death on anyone, but the fact Al-Megrahi could live a fulfilling life if he doesn’t die anytime soon sickens me. And it should sicken you, too.

I’m glad to see that, despite all he’s got going on at home, President Obama hasn’t forgotten about Al-Megrahi’s case. Late last week, John Brennan—Obama’s counterterrorism advisor—announced the United States has been in contact with Scotland to let them know we are not happy Al-Megrahi is a free man. They’ve called Scotland’s decision the wrong one and urged Scotland to throw Al-Megrahi back behind bars. Obama’s Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton has expressed a similar opinion, stating that the U.S. and Libya continue to talk about a range of issues, including the future of Al-Megrahi.

For now, that will have to do. Hopefully, the U.S., Scotland and Libya can come to some sort of compromise in the future and figure out exactly how to handle Al-Megrahi’s freedom. Hopefully, this nation will recognize this problem with terrorism and be as outraged with it as they are with the idea of a mosque going up near Ground Zero. Hopefully, justice will be served. Because there’s a convicted terrorist walking around like a free man—and that’s the last thing in the world he should be.

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