Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, convicted in 2000 of planning the Pan Am 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, was released from prison in Scotland today, on the grounds that his terminal prostate cancer warrants clemency. Al-Megrahi is now en route to his native Libya, aboard a private jet belonging Muamar Qaddafi. “Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade,” the magistrate who ordered the release wrote in her ruling. Some 270 were killed the attack, the majority of them Americans. “Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive…. However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power.” The United States has condemned the decision, as have many of the Lockerbie victims’ families.
But here’s the interesting part: Some suspect that Scotland has had the wrong man all along. One theory, described in 1989 by David Tal of Israel’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, holds that Iran, not Libya, was actually behind the attack, that it was revenge for the accidental downing of an Iranian passenger plane by the USS Vincennes over the Straits of Hormuz in 1988. According to Tal, the attack itself was carried out by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a terrorist cell based in Damascus. Tal wrote that evidence was found on Popular Front agents caught in West Germany just months before the bombing, including bombs designed like the one that took out the Pan Am plane, and flight timetables. In 1997, Abolghassem Mesbahi, an Iranian dissident, told German officials that Iran was indeed behind Lockerbie—a claim Iran denied.
Scotland Releases Lockerbie Bomber [AP/JPost]