Compassion for families who lost loved ones in the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and a dire sense of injustice makes it impossible to condone the Scotland’s decision to free the only person arrested in the crime.

Compassion for families who lost loved ones in the 1988 crash of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, and a dire sense of injustice makes it impossible to condone the Scotland’s decision to free the only person arrested in the crime.


Abdel Baset al-Megrahi of Libya, who now has advanced prostate cancer, showed no compassion for the 270 people killed Dec. 21, 1988, including 48-year-old Abington resident and Quincy native Thomas Buckley and Syracuse University students Cynthia Smith of Milton and Julianne Kelly of Dedham.


Megrahi, 57, was convicted in 2001 of the murder of all 270 people and had served eight years of his life sentence. A second Libyan tried at the same time, Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, was found innocent.


Pan Am 103 originated in Frankfurt, Germany, where authorities believe a suitcase containing a bomb was placed aboard the aircraft. When it crashed in a Lockerbie field, all 259 people aboard the Boeing 747 jetliner and 11 on the ground were killed.


Few who followed the story then will forget the tale of rescuers finding a seat from the plane in the middle of a field, with the bodies of two young girls, still holding hands.


There are those who were touch directly by this heinous act who have agreed al-Megrahi should be released to Libya to live out the final months of his life.


Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora on the plane, has said he has doubts justice was served when al-Megrahi was convicted and he had advocated for his release.


Scottish leaders expressed different reasons for their decision.


“In Scotland, we’re a people who pride ourselves on our humanity,” Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said. “The perpetration of an atrocity ... cannot and should not be a basis for losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.”


Scottish law, he said, required “justice be served but mercy be shown.”


American officials, including President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, described Scotland’s decision as a mistake and we strongly agree.


Retribution is not justice. But neither is freeing the convicted murderer of 270 people so that he might die peacefully in familiar surroundings. It strains even the most merciful sensibility.


For those who found some comfort in knowing at least one villain was being held accountable for this crime, Thursday’s news reopens old wounds, and not for the first time.


“It’s never something that’s completely out of your mind,” Michael Walker’s widow, Susan Nagle, said in 1999 when Libya handed over Megrahi. “It's going to be difficult for the families to relive those feelings.”


Sadly, Thursday’s decision forces them to relive them yet again.


The Patriot Ledger