Monday, July 5, 2010

Lockerbie and Libya: Scapegoating? The Silence of the Arab League--Doha Debates Chez Chiara


This Doha Debate, which was held 9 months ago, on the release of the one man convicted of the terrorist action almost 22 years ago which downed Pan Am Flight 103 (Heathrow London to New York City) over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988, killing all on board: 242 passengers, 16 crew (190 were American; 36 were students flying home from overseas studies), and 11 locals on the ground in Lockerbie. Among the dead was a Lebanese-American Khalid Nazir Jaafar, 21, returning from visiting family in Lebanon. Because of his ethnic background he was a suspect initially of both the official investigators and the conspiracy theorists. On January 31, 2001, after a much delayed though ultimately brief (84 days) trial, one of 2 accused Libyans, Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer, was convicted of 270 murders, and sentenced to life imprisonment. The other, Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah, the former Libyan Airlines station manager at the airport in Malta was acquitted of all charges.

Al-Magrehi, after serving over 8 years in a Scottish prison, was released in August 2009, as an act of compassion, due to his diagnosis of terminal prostate cancer, and his very poor prognosis (3 months). While most of the world, especially the Anglophone world raged about it, the Libyans gave him a hero's welcome. He was received much as a state dignitary, war hero, or prodigal son would be. His plane was met by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Muammar's son who is the one most embued with power publicly now, and expected to become the Leader after his father's death.


The case is current again, as Al-Megrahi has now lived more than a year beyond the time of the original assessment and prognosis. He has been given a much better prognosis, in terms of life expectancy at least, up to 10 or  more years. Yet, this is much as his prognosis was originally given, 50% chance of being dead at 3 months from the assessment, 50% chance of being alive, and living well beyond that.

The current news, or rather media reassessment, is a reminder that Al-Megrahi's original release was highly controversial, but also came in the midst of his appeal of the conviction on the grounds of a miscarriage of justice. There are very challenging questions about how the conviction came about, why Libya, why Al-Megrahi, and why the release for whatever reason  that pre-empted an ongoing investigation and stopped public exposure of whatever would be found. At the time of the trial, held in the Netherlands under Scottish Law on a US Air Force base, Camp Zeist, in Utrecht, the UN, after prompting, appointed a number of international observers. Then Secretary-General Kofi Annan nominated five international observers:
Mrs. Hairat A. Balogun (Organization of African Unity and the Non-Aligned Movement); Mr. M. H. Beerenboom (European Commission); Dr. Nabil Elaraby (League of Arab States); Mr. Robert W. Thabit (International Progress Organization); Dr. Hans Koechler (President, International Progress Organization).

While the others, including the Arab League and its representative, Dr Nabil Elaraby have remained relatively silent, Dr Hans Köchler, Professor at the University of Innsbruck, Austria proved to be the most adamant, both in writing reports and in interviews, that there was a gross miscarriage of justice, or as he put it, after, thanks to his reports, the right to a second appeal was granted in 2008, and begun in 2009:
"Irrespective of the outcome of the current appeal, there should be a reinvestigation of the incident by the Scottish authorities. It is extremely frustrating that with regard to such an incident just one person has been presented as the culprit and no further questions asked. Only a child would believe such a story."
Speaking on the prosecution's use of the public interest immunity (PII) principle to withhold information from the defence and the public Professor Köchler elaborated:
"Whether those in public office like it or not, the Lockerbie trial has become a test case for the criminal justice system of Scotland. At the same time, it has become an exemplary case on a global scale - its handling will demonstrate whether a domestic system of criminal justice can resist the dictates of international power politics or simply becomes dysfunctional as soon as "supreme state interests" interfere with the imperatives of justice. (...) The fairness of judicial proceedings is undoubtedly a supreme and permanent public interest. If the rule of law is to be upheld, the requirements of the administration of justice may have to take precedence over public interests of a secondary order - such as a state's momentary foreign policy considerations or commercial and trade interests. The internal stability and international legitimacy of a polity in the long term depend on whether it is able to ensure the supremacy of the law over considerations of power and convenience."
His assessment of the second appeal process was equally negative, and included the memorable words:
Only in a totalitarian system would the executive power interfere in court proceedings and order the withholding of evidence and/or replace defense lawyers by MI-approved lawyers (which I hope will not happen in the present case).
[...]
[...on the second appeal being held in Scotland...] Under the present circumstances, there is a total lack of transparency of the proceedings. The entire procedure (with the PII [public interest immunity principle] as core issue of the appeal) looks more like an intelligence operation than a genuine undertaking of criminal justice.
Dr. Hans Koechler, President of the International Progress Organization (left), and Sir Menzies Campbell CBE QC, former Leader of the United Kingdom's Liberal Democrats, keynote speakers at the Law Awards ceremony. Dr. Koechler delivered the address on The Lockerbie Trial and the Rule of Law.

I first became aware of the trial and its outcomes, because of the case of the Bulgarian nurses and one Libyan MD, arrested for causing the infection of 451 Libyan children with the AIDS virus, through their work and subterfuge at Benghazi Children's Hospital.  In the face of growing international pressure for their release, and scientific proof of their innocence, Gaddafi asked for in compensation the same amount he had agreed that Libya would pay in compensation for the Lockerbie bombing--as the price of normalizing relations with the USA, after 9/1l, rather than be "bombed back to the stone age" along with the other MENA countries on the list of  7 the George W Bush administration had lined up. The Libyan doctors on government scholarship whom I was teaching at the time were most distressed over the AIDS case, given both their insider knowledge and their inability to say much about it; and, that it was the one thing about Libya in the news at the time they were seeking residency positions in Canada.

My own readings, on both the AIDS case and the Lockerbie bombing trial, convinced me that Libya had been made a convenient scapegoat for Lockerbie, given its past deeds and international reputation, and that other international interests were being served by doing so. Lord Fraser, Hans Köchler, and other reputable writers and documents did a lot to convince me. I am open to the possibility that I am wrong, of course, but something was rotten in Utrecht. A reasonable overview with links is here.


In light of the current news about Al-Megrahi's prognosis, certain themes have resurfaced. Most are addressing whether he deserves compassion, but the bigger questions are why was he convicted, why was Libya made to pay, why was he released when he was and in such a way as to pre-empt an investigation and report, who is involved beyond a junior intelligence officer from Libya. Another theme that interests me more now in re-reading on this case, is where were the other UN observers, what were they (not) saying and why, how were they chosen as the particular observers to represent their institutions. Beyond that, what about the silence of Arab countries, the Arab League, the GCC, and in particular Saudi Arabia as a privileged business partner of the US. As convenient a scapegoat as Libya made at the time, what would be the current retrospective judgment on the wisdom of other Arab countries in allowing this to happen?

Another theme which could impact any reader, and no doubt has impacted some, is that of what it is like to be abroad when your (often little known, or little really known) country is in the international headlines for all the wrong reasons.  How does this impact the student, visitor, or immigrant when suddenly his or her country is the topic of media reports, school and workplace conversations? How much does one feel willing, able, or welcome to comment on the news? How does this impact on current relationships and goals, and on planning for the future?

I thought the following Doha Debate would be a start to our sharing ideas on this topic of Libya, Lockerbie, scapegoating, and the release of Al-Megrahi, especially in light of his new prognosis,  its resonance internationally, and analogous situations.

Al-Megrahi in a Libyan hospital helped by daughter Ghada. Photo Julie Howden, Herald Scotland

A helpful timeline from The Herald Scotland

How the Lockerbie case unfolded

December 21, 1988: Pan Am Flight 103 from Heathrow to New York explodes over Lockerbie.
November 14, 1991: Libyans Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi and Al Amin Khalifa Fhimah accused of the bombing.
May 3, 2000: Lockerbie trial opens at Camp Zeist in the Netherlands under Scots law.
January 31, 2001: Megrahi is found guilty of mass murder and jailed for life, with a minimum term of 20 years.
January 23, 2002: Appeal goes before five judges at Camp Zeist.
March 14, 2002: Judges uphold his conviction.
September 23, 2003: Megrahi applies to the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), for a review.
June 28, 2007: The SCCRC says he may have been the victim of miscarriage of justice and returns the case to the appeal court.
October 21, 2008: Megrahi is diagnosed with prostate cancer.
April 28, 2009: His second appeal against conviction begins.
August 12, 2009: Scottish ministers deny a decision has been taken to release him.
August 18, 2009: Megrahi abandons his second appeal.
August 20, 2009: Megrahi freed on compassionate grounds by Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill.

For more information on The Doha Debates generally, which follow Oxford Union debating rules, see the website of The Doha Debates, for more information on The Doha Debates and The Doha Debates Chez Chiara see the introductory post, and the blog Category Doha Debates (DohaDebates) on the sidebar. The following includes excerpts from the panelists' biographies, the debate transcript, and the final result. A summary statement precedes each of the dialogues with a particular audience member whose photo, where available, is included. Full information for this debate is here. The full transcript may be read here. The full debate may be viewed here, and the podcast link is available here.


The Motion
This House deplores the release of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya


TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening and a warm welcome to the first in our sixth series of Doha Debates coming to you from the Gulf State of Qatar and sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. We face tonight an extraordinarily divisive issue. A Libyan national convicted of Britain's worst terrorist attack was released in August by the Scottish government on compassionate grounds because he was suffering terminal cancer. But was compassion appropriate in such a case? What signal did it send to those convicted of mass murder? What signal did it send to their victims? The case has generated enormous and bitter controversy, especially in Britain and America where the release was condemned by President Obama. This is the first time it's been aired in a public forum in the Arab world. So there we have it: Libya's Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi allowed to leave Scotland 21 years after Pan Am flight 103 was blown up over Lockerbie, killing 270 people, the crime for which he received a penalty of life imprisonment. And your role tonight is to decide if letting him go home to die was right or wrong. Our motion: 'This House deplores the release of the Lockerbie bomber to Libya', and as ever our panel is deeply divided on the issue.

Speaking for the motion


Daniel Kawczynski is a member of the Conservative party and founder and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Groups in the House of Commons for Libya and Saudi Arabia. He has led numerous delegations to both countries and has frequently expressed his opposition to the release of the Lockerbie bomber. He recently accepted the post of Parliamentary Chairman of the Conservative Arab network and is writing a book entitled 'Seeking Gaddafi'.

DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
Thank you very much. I feel passionately about Anglo-Arab relations. I believe as a British parliamentarian the Arab world is extremely important: strategically, culturally and economically for the United Kingdom. That is why I have set up something called the Conservative Arab network in the House of Commons to campaign on behalf of Anglo-Arab issues. But this was a crime, the worst atrocity imaginable, that was carried out, and Mr. Al-Megrahi was convicted in a court of this heinous crime, and that is why I did not want his release to be carried out whilst we have key outstanding issues with Libya. I must tell you that a serving British police officer, a young lady, was shot outside the Libyan embassy 25 years ago. The Metropolitan Police have desperately tried to conclude the investigations into her killer. They've been to Tripoli on three occasions and yet now the Libyan authorities refuse to allow them to finish their investigations. I have repeatedly asked to see Colonel Gaddafi, to bring some of these police officers with me so that the investigations can be finished, and yet he refuses to see me, and a recent delegation to Libya was postponed. So I must tell you, if we are going to build a long, credible, trusting partnership with Libya, it must be done with mutual respect and part of that is to resolve these outstanding issues, and I will not rest until the killer of P.C. Yvonne Fletcher, shot by a Libyan diplomat, has been brought to justice.


Guma El-Gamaty is a Libyan writer, political commentator and frequent critic of the Libyan regime. He has been living in the UK for more than 30 years and was active with the Libyan opposition movement abroad in the 1980s. He was one of the organizers of a demonstration outside the Libyan Embassy in London on the 17th of April 1984, at which police officer Yvonne Fletcher was killed and 10 others injured. For the last few years Mr. El-Gumaty has been a researcher at the University of Westminster. His studies have focussed on how Libya's brain drain has affected human and democratic development in the country.

GUMA EL-GAMATY
Thank you, Tim. Let me first start by greeting everybody here by our Arabic traditional greeting to say Salaam aleikum which translates [as] 'Peace be upon you all'. Secondly let me also make it clear that I am a Libyan but I make a very clear distinction between the Libyan regime on one side, and on the other side Libya as a country and its people to whom I proudly belong. Now, I am here to argue that there is a very important principle and rule here that we should uphold, and that is the rule of law and due process of law. I am here to argue that it is absolutely wrong to appease [a] totalitarian, oppressive regime and to give in to their political and economical blackmail, and basically to release a man based on a deal, a dirty business deal, between the British government and the Libyan regime. I feel really sorry for Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi. He is probably a victim of his own masters, in his own regime who [have] used him. However remember that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi fought very hard for many years through his lawyers to have the opportunity to go before the Scottish court again which has the highest integrity and we respect its independence and integrity, and have his case heard again, and yet at the last minute he completely dropped that. Surely if he is confident of his innocence, why would he miss a golden chance and probably the final chance to clear his name and go home as an innocent free man? Instead Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi went home as a convicted mass murderer, that's what the whole world knows now, that is what officially is on the statute books, and his children and grandchildren will carry that scar forever, and also my country Libya will always be held responsible for that crime, because Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi missed a golden chance offered to him by the Scottish courts and judiciary to hear his case again and clear his name and clear Libya forever. What is really needed, the most important basic and human right that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi needed was for him to have as a priority the best medical care you could have for his cancer condition. That would be in Scotland, in a hospital in Scotland, and not in Libya where there is absolutely no health care and it's very dire and very poor. Secondly, his family and children who lived in Glasgow very close to his prison for many years and saw him regularly, could be there at his bedside while he's having treatment. We don't know that Abdelbaset Megrahi will die in three months, only Allah knows, he could die in six months or even three years and maybe longer, we don't wish that on him.

Okay, in just one final sentence, what he should have done is taken the chance to clear his name in front of a Scottish court and probably would have been living - and that process would have been going now and concluded very quickly - then go home as a free man, then I will be very happy for him and support him and congratulate him on that. That is my case.

Speaking against the motion


Mustafa Fetouri is a political commentator who writes widely in both English and Arabic newspapers and is currently MBA Programme Director at The Academy of Graduate Studies in Tripoli. In 1999 he founded the US-Libya Dialogue Group and organized conferences in the Netherlands and Malta. Professor Fetouri has also worked as a consultant to governmental and NGO organizations in Libya. He spent almost 23 years in the West before returning to Libya three years ago.

MUSTAFA FETOURI
Thanks. Thank you, Tim. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, I will not be long, just a couple of points I would like to make as an opening statement, and I just have them as bullet points. One, I believe the motion should go to us and Mr. Megrahi should have been released actually a long time ago, but I'm, just summarising. One is that the Scottish Justice Minister, Mr. Kenny MacAskill was a courageous man and he believed in the rule of law the law that has a compassionate side to it. That is why he made the right decision to release Mr. Megrahi who was terminally ill. Two, the UK victims' families, some of whom are addressed by my partner here, Dr. Jim Swire, do believe.. are not actually satisfied with the outcome of the court itself and the final verdict, and waiting for the second appeal could have taken quite a long time. We are facing a situation where a man could die before the final decision is made. Three, we have to understand that the Scottish justice system, this is in response to the noise that happened after his release, especially in the United States, that the Scottish justice system has a very important and integral part of it which gives room for the compassionate release of convicts, and that's exactly what happened. Four, there is growing, informed public opinion, professional public opinion that is, which includes lawyers, judges and so on and so forth about the whole case itself: that Mr. Megrahi was actually framed and Libya along with him and there is no case to answer for Mr. Megrahi at all. The whole conviction was circumstantial. Finally, this is a man who spent about eight years of his life in jail for a crime that's famous - not just suspected - but actually he never took part in. Thank you very much, Tim.


Jim Swire's daughter Flora was a passenger on board Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in December 1988, killing 270 people. Since then he has led a high-profile campaign for justice on behalf of the victims' UK relatives and has travelled to Libya to meet Colonel Gaddafi and other government officials. In 1990 he took a fake bomb on board a British Airways plane in order to highlight deficiencies in airline security. He remains convinced that the truth about the bombing has not yet been told.
[*Dr Swire has also provided a cogent explanation for Al-Megrahi's survival beyond 3 months]

JIM SWIRE
Well, Tim, I would like to thank the Qatar Foundation from my heart for this opportunity to peer through a window of free speech into the Arab world. I'm the father of Flora Swire, who was aged 23, a brilliant young doctor murdered on her way to visit her American boyfriend for Christmas. I believe there is no degree of desire for revenge that justifies the killing of innocent people, and it is my dearest wish that somehow this appalling event can be turned round in such a way that it can actually produce some benefit. I think we're all brothers on this planet and we need to acknowledge that and this planet is getting into an increasingly delicate state. We need to stop killing each other, blowing up each other, shooting each other and learn to live together and do something, indeed, to save our own habitat. Lockerbie was revenge and exactly who was getting revenge is still open to discussion because we have heard about the doubt surrounding the trial. Until the trial started, I believed that I would go into that court to hear two of the murderers of my daughter condemned, rightly, to the rest of their lives in prison. I've had a terrible 20 years, it's been like being a dog under a table where all he can get at are the crumbs that drop off the edge, but during the trial, it was as though the table was suddenly made of glass and I could see, distorted perhaps, upside-down perhaps, some of the things that were passing between the high and the mighty who were arranging this trial. I've had the privilege of meeting Colonel Gaddafi three times, all UK prime ministers since Lockerbie except Margaret Thatcher who refused to meet with us, and Gordon Brown who after six weeks hasn't even answered a letter from me requesting to meet him. I've also met Nelson Mandela. We shouldn't forget that Nelson Mandela was involved in this issue, and the last thing he said to me and the public, just before President Clinton announced that the trial would be held, was: 'No one country should be complainant, prosecutor and judge.' On the night of Lockerbie about as many people as are here tonight, about the same average age perhaps, were slaughtered in one fell swoop by somebody getting their revenge. The trial convinced me that it was not Megrahi who was involved in that, and I think we should remember that the UN-appointed special observer to the trial called Professor Hans Koechler of Vienna. He has said publicly that this verdict was totally impossible and incredible, and he's even gone so far as to say that in order to achieve it, the Scottish Crown Office, that's the prosecuting authority, had acted in a deliberately improper manner.

So I want you not to spare me tonight, but to ask me questions as to why I believe that Megrahi was not involved, and I want you to know that just as terrible as it was when she was killed, I don't want her memory to be couched in terms of lies and hypocrisy, a tirade of which I believe I heard in that court. Thank you, Tim.

Audience Input


Anger at Al-Megrahi vs at the Libyan regime
AUDIENCE (F)
Good evening. I'm Iraqi. My question is directed to Mr. Al-Gamaty. It seems like your anger is misdirected more towards the Libyan regime than it is towards Al-Megrahi, and I say that because it doesn't seem like your focus is more on his release because you've mentioned several times in the two minutes that you had that it's unfortunate that he could have cleared his name and so forth. It seems like your anger is more directed towards the Libyan regime. Is that true?
GUMA EL-GAMATY
Absolutely. You know, just think about it. Do you think that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi just woke up one morning and said: 'Ah. Today I feel like plotting to blow up a Pan Am airliner over the mid-Atlantic and kill 270 people.' It doesn't happen like that. Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi probably was a very small pawn in a very elaborate and extensive plan. There are many, many other people much more senior, much higher than Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi who wanted to do this horrendous crime, and probably not just Libyans. There were probably others as well, other parties. There could be some Arab groups, there could be some Arab countries in this region - so Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is a victim, he has been used. The real perpetrators are states, are senior intelligence officers, are rulers of countries. You cannot do something like this in a country like Libya without it being actioned and sanctioned from the highest position...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, we're going to ... Dr. Fetouri, please, do you want to come in?
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Thank you Tim, I'm not interrupting anybody, I just have to make a comment. I mean, that question, that's a very nice question. The discussion here is about the release of Mr Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi and his trial and the whole case of Lockerbie. Okay. We have a man here who is saying that Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi should be released, but we just wait for him to die in jail, we release him after he dies, or maybe it is better, we don't release him after he dies, we just keep him a little bit longer after he dies until we find out that Libya was behind it or not. I mean, there is absolutely no way of discussing this logic. I mean, is the man guilty in the first place or not? Okay, he's been guilty, has he been given due process of justice? No. The answer is no. What happened? There is a second appeal now, should be going on now, and he has a very nice chance, I would say 80 per cent chance of winning it and getting out of the whole case...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri, he got a lot more justice than he'd have got in Libya, didn't he?
MUSTAFA FETOURI
But the problem is his health, or we just take the other point of view, we just hold the man who's dying, we hold him as a kind of a bargaining chip.. and actually Mr Daniel Kawczynski said this...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to ask you to, Guma El-Gamaty wants to come back. Guma El-Gamaty, please, we can't make it so long with the answers.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
How can you tell when Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is going to die? That is just something beyond belief, to make this emotional argument, that the man is dying, therefore you should let him go. He could live for another three years, I hope he does, and yet he had a golden chance to clear his name in the only way possible and that is to go back to the same court and put the evidence and then the court would clear him.


The lack of fairness in releasing Al-Megrahi and not other prisoners
AUDIENCE (M)
I'm Qatari and I want to know, is it fair that the Libyan bomber gets released and not other prisoners?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Jim Swire, would you like to take that?
JIM SWIRE
That's a very good question. There are a few other Libyan prisoners in Britain as well, and as things worked out, Mr. Megrahi had two possible ways of being returned to his own country. One was to use a new device which was called a Prisoner Transfer Agreement , and that would have required him to withdraw his appeal. The other way was compassionate release. Now, the Americans who have made a huge fuss about his release are not quite to be taken at face value because they agreed to an arrangement whereby in the event of either of these two Libyans being found guilty, they would be imprisoned in Scotland under the control of Scottish law, and Scottish law for many years has included the possibility of compassionate release, and nearly everybody for whom compassionate release has been applied has obtained compassionate release - so Kenny MacAskill was acting to a precedent in Scottish law.
TIM SEBASTIAN (to questioner)
Okay, he wants to come back. You want to come back for a moment - say something, and then I'll come to you.
AUDIENCE (M)
Do you think the act that he did was a terrorist act?
JIM SWIRE
I don't believe that he was involved in the Lockerbie disaster on the basis of the evidence that I've heard, and one of the most heartening things over the past few years since the trial ended has been that every jurist that I can think of who has examined the evidence in detail, has come to the same conclusion...this very morning...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Apart from the Scottish Review Commission of course, and that contains a number of jurists there.
JIM SWIRE
It did indeed.
TIM SEBASTIAN
They didn't come to that conclusion.
JIM SWIRE
This very morning in the House of Lords a request was made by two QCs (Queen's Counsels) that the British government asked, the UK government, asked the Scottish government to initiate an inquiry into Lockerbie in view of the findings of the SCCRC and of the ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's the Scottish Review Commission.
JIM SWIRE
... yes the Scottish Review Commission and of the special observer ....
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to ask Daniel Kawczynski to come in here.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
That's a very important question about the prisoners, the other prisoners, and the United Kingdom has spent a great deal of time working with Libya on the Prisoner Transfer Agreement. And if Mr. Megrahi was to be released, I believe it should have been through this Prisoner Transfer Agreement, in exchange for progress being made to get the killer of P.C. Yvonne Fletcher, so it's not a question of holding hostages, it's a question of each country showing the other respect.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Jim Swire wants to come in here.
JIM SWIRE
I'm a layman, I'm not a politician like you, but are you aware as a politician that Jack Straw who's the English equivalent of Kenny MacAskill in Scotland ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
He's a Justice Secretary.
JIM SWIRE
... the Justice Secretary for England, that he prevented a joint House of Commons and House of Lords Committee, who were looking into the Prisoner Transfer Agreement in respect to its implications for human rights, because it's an agreement which could allow the government to return prisoners to a country where they might expect to meet a dreadful end, without their having to ask for the use of that agreement. Why did he not allow them to do this?
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
Well, you'll have to ask Jack Straw that.
JIM SWIRE
I have. He won't answer.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
Very important. Our government, this decision was taken, by the way, today is the first day that parliament is sitting in the House of Commons. It's been in recess for over two and a half months. This decision was taken with no consultation by parliamentarians and this is partly why we are so frustrated, because the decision to transfer this prisoner had no sanction from our own parliament, and there was no scrutiny, it was all behind-the-scenes deals between the Foreign Office and the Libyans, and that in a democracy should not have happened.


The moral message of sending Al-Megrahi home
AUDIENCE (F)
Good evening. I'm Iraqi. My question is to the opposition side of the debate. Well, knowing the right of going or getting back home is very essential and important to everybody, and knowing that there is a percentage of, as in the person who's being kept is not 100 per cent innocent and is not 100 per cent guilty, what kind of a moral message here we're sending to people if we're sending him back home, since we know that this right is very important?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
What's the question, I'm sorry, I did not get the question, I'm sorry.
AUDIENCE (F)
Okay. The moral message that you're sending to people, to other people, if you are sending this person back to his place, to his home, since he's not 100 per cent innocent, what kind of a message you're sending to people? Thank you.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
If I get you correctly, you are asking if you are sending this guy back home and convinced that he's innocent, is that what you're saying?
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, the questioner was saying that Mr. Megrahi was not 100 per cent innocent. Actually he was convicted of the murder of 270 people.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Yes, all right, all right.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Slightly less than not guilty.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
I'm very sorry, I'll answer the question, please. I'm very sorry but the idea is this. I mean, the whole situation, the whole Lockerbie case, what it came to, or what it has reached so far, is that Al-Megrahi and his colleague were transferred to Camp Zeist. They had a trial which we assumed in the beginning will be the due process of justice and that has not been the case. One was acquitted and the other one was convicted. Increasingly ever since 2001 when he was convicted we have increasingly seen additional evidence, if you like, that says he should not have been convicted in the first place, and then we had the review of the Scottish review body that looks after courts and what they do, and this again is saying, there could be a miscarriage of justice - which is equivalent to saying that the trial was not the right, was not on the right track.
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's not the equivalent of saying that the trial was not on the right track, it's the equivalent of saying that some evidence came later that wasn't available to people at the time of the trial.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
It's more or less the same thing.
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, and it did also say that there were some indications of guilt and some indications of innocence. If you're going to quote, please don't quote so selectively, you're giving people the wrong impression. Please, Daniel Kawczynski, you want to come in here.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
That young lady has raised a very, very important issue here. What message does it send out if you are releasing convicted terrorists? Now, in our country we see the coffins of British soldiers coming back every week who are being killed in Afghanistan, making that ultimate sacrifice to fight against terrorism, and yet on the other hand we are releasing convicted terrorists. It's a terrible message.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, alright. Jim Swire, you wanted to say something.
JIM SWIRE
In essence, you are criticising the system that exists in part of your country, i.e. Scotland. There is an established policy of allowing compassionate release if you think that the person is within about three months of his death.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
But I spoke to an eminent QC who's also a Member of Parliament, Sir Menzies Campbell, about this issue, and he is equivocally... he's a QC and he said there are four separate things you have to look at when releasing a prisoner. The severity of the crime, the consequences and the sentence imposed, and in all three, the court said that this crime was the worst atrocity, terrorist atrocity in Britain, the sentence was extremely high and they only looked at his health, and that is the fourth option, very important, but what about the other three?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. I'm going to take a brief comment from Dr. Fetouri and then from Mr. Gamaty.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Just on the comparison between Afghanistan and the case of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi ... Look, in Afghanistan, you invaded the country...
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're not discussing Afghanistan.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
That's what we are expecting. What do you expect, whatever the reasoning was, but in this case, this is a dying man whose case is totally suspicious, the verdict against him is totally suspicious, it is circumstantial evidence. And he's dying. You couldn't wait for his appeal, which he was sure, he was quite certain that he will win.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Guma El-Gamaty
GUMA EL-GAMATY
I'd just like to say that the gentlemen there is shutting down on the judiciary system in Scotland and saying that courts in Scotland maybe are not totally independent, I'd like to tell you that Scotland is not Libya. In Scotland the judiciary and the court are completely independent and cannot be influenced by governments or politicians, and yet this is exactly the principle which we ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, let him speak, let him speak.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
Again, this is not Libya, this is a Doha free forum. Can I just also say, this is exactly the important principle: the principle of maintaining independent of the judiciary and the independence of the court and not getting the government involved in dirty deals and giving into blackmail from the Gaddafi regime is what we need to see. It's a far more important principle than compassionate release, that Megrahi, had the chance to go through the judicial court and clear his name independently and he chose to drop it, maybe under pressure from the Gaddafi regime.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, Mr Guma El-Gamaty, thank you. The questioner, you want to come back on this. Are you impressed by anything that you've heard?
AUDIENCE (F)
Well, I'm impressed by this side. Taking the idea of compassion, that the guy is dying, that the man is dying, is not really, I don't know, it's not convincing because he is, there is a possibility that he killed like more people, more souls than himself. What kind of a message, the moral message that this side of the debate is sending is okay because he's dying....
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you got your chance. Dr. Al-Fetouri.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Okay. Well, I have to go back to the previous speaker's remarks.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Just answer the question. We've got a lot of questions, we need to move on, please. No history lessons.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Okay. The case has reached the point whereby Mr. Megrahi, I don't know how much of the proceedings you have followed so far concerning the Lockerbie case. The case had reached the stage where Mr. Megrahi was convicted and then he had his second appeal which is being looked at by the supervisory body in Scotland. Just a moment. The whole thing was built on circumstantial evidence. What we are talking about now is not: he should be released just because he's ill. No, we are talking also about the fact that the Scottish justice system, and this is something I emphasised in my opening statement, is one of the best in the world, is one of the most respected, okay?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay. I'm going to ask you to finish now, we have a lot of questions. Just make one sentence.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Okay, right. And Mr. Kenny MacAskill, who is the Justice Minister in Scotland, I mean, was really worried that the whole thing will come to zero afterwards and he will be acquitted anyway...


At least Al-Megrahi had his day in court, unlike thousands of prisoners in Libya
AUDIENCE (M)
Thank you for the opportunity. I'm also from Libya, and I would like to address some of the points raised by this side of the debate. Underpinning here on the side is the fact Dr. Fetouri made the statement that Libya actually went out of its way to pay 2.5 - 2.7 rather - billion dollars and offer a sacrificed lamb, Mr. Megrahi, to be locked in jail for nine years until he was released, just so that they can get it out of the way, and make a public statement of admission of guilt just to get it out of the way. This is a preposterous statement to say about a people and a country. This is one item. The second item is, we hear from this side, we hear also from the regime in Libya, that this is a compassionate case, that this man is dying, that justice should take place. I want the world to know that at least Mr. Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi had one thing that thousands of Libyans today never dreamed of, a day in court. There are thousands of prisoners in Libya who have been there for 20 or more years, who've never had a day in court. They were never convicted, they were never tried, and they die in jail.
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we come to a question, please? Can we come to a question?
AUDIENCE (M)
In this year - I'm going to conclude - in this year we had an example ... ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
With a question I hope.
AUDIENCE (M)
Yes. And my question is, has the Gaddafi regime ever in its 40 years sitting on the throne of Libya, released one prisoner under the same compassionate rules that they are asking the Scottish to do?
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Yes, sure, I will be pleased to answer, that's not our subject first of all, but nevertheless I will answer. Of course, of course there have been so many releases of prisoners in Libya on compassionate grounds, and even more on religious occasions that have happen every now and then. I will go back to the issue of the compensation, why Libya agreed to pay the 2.7 billion, and again reiterate my statement: Libya is a small country. The United Nations is controlled by the superpowers and the embargo against the country has been going on for the better part of a decade and the economy was destroyed. People were dying in droves trying to get medical treatment outside the country because they could not fly, they had to drive to Tunisia or Egypt, or to take a boat to Malta, I did this myself many times. There was no other way, I mean, we proposed, Libya actually, proposed the trial to take place in a third country which was Camp Zeist in Holland...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, I'm going to ask the questioner, I'm going to ask the questioner to come back here.
AUDIENCE (M)
I just want to come back to the original question. My question was not about sanctions and this and that. My question was very simple. Has the Gaddafi regime, in its 40 totalitarian years in Libya, released one political prisoner under the same reasons and grounds that it is asking the Scottish authorities to do. I do not mean people released in boxes because we've had 1200, one thousand two hundred prisoners, killed in one day.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, you've made your point. Jim Swire wants to answer that, and then I'll come to you.
JIM SWIRE
I've said already, I'm not a politician and I don't claim to know anything about Libyan politics other than my talks with Colonel Gaddafi himself, but can we get back to the subject: was it a deplorable thing to release this man? Look at it for a moment from the point of view of terrorism. Most terrorism, Lockerbie certainly, happened as acts of revenge. If this man had been kept in a Scottish prison cell until he died, he would have become to be seen as a martyr. If the decision that he was guilty in this case ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
The questioner doesn't really agree with you on that.
JIM SWIRE
I know he doesn't, but if the verdict against this man is overturned, what will then be the future effect on potential terrorists if they see that this was a man who wasn't even guilty of this terror attack and died....?
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm going to take a come-back on Guma El-Gamaty, he has been patient here on the right.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
Thank you, Tim. Can I just remind everybody that the Libyan regime has asked for Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi to be released on compassionate grounds to die a natural death amongst his family back in Tripoli. Let me remind you that on 29th June 1996, twelve hundred Libyan political prisoners were massacred in one day in Abu Salim prison, they were never given that chance to die a natural death in the arms of their wives and mothers. If this justice or is this hypocrisy from the Libyan regime?
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, okay, you've made your point. Dr. Fetouri, do you want to come back on that point?
MUSTAFA FETOURI
To that point, yes. Just to correct something. The Libyan government has never asked for the release of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi. Legally it cannot. He did it himself, he is the imprisoned person and he has to do it himself.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Jim Swire, is that true? That they didn't ask for his release...?
MUSTAFA FETOURI
If the other side would please just like to correct the facts...
GUMA EL-GAMATY
You are contradicting...
[inaudible exchange between speakers]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could I have a moment of silence, please, because nobody will be able to hear anything. Dr. Fetouri, you said okay, thank you. Mr. El-Gamaty, you have something to say, please say it.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
You are contradicting your leader's son, who said very clearly and openly that in every meeting we had with the British over the last many years, we always put the release of Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi on the table and we said we need it as a bargaining chip.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Well, everybody does, no!
[inaudible exchange between speakers]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you, thank you, we're not going to get anywhere if you shout, please. Thank you. I'm going to take a question from the gentleman in the front row.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
Can I very quickly come in on that point? The gentleman's point is absolutely pivotal, and don't forget, there are many people in Britain today, British citizens of Libyan origin. I had one come to see me in the House of Commons very recently, who desperately wants to go and see his 94-year-old grandmother in Tripoli. She's ill, but the Libyans will not allow him to go back because his father's a dissident.


The use of the negotiations for deal making between Britain and Libya
AUDIENCE (M) [Lybian]
My question is directed to Mr. Guma. With all due respect, sir, you have mentioned some evidence about dirty business deals, something between governments and Scottish government. But my question here: in a business deal as far as I know, both sides have to be happy and satisfied. How can the Libyan government be satisfied by this deal? I mean you said something about a gas deal or something...
GUMA EL-GAMATY
What has been happening is that the Libyan regime has used the opportunity for British companies to go into Libya and secure lucrative deals and contracts, especially in oil and gas, the Libyan regime has used that as a leverage, as a bargaining chip, as a blackmailing tool ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Used what, used the release?
GUMA EL-GAMATY
No, used the opportunity for British companies to secure and use contracts, lucrative contracts, in the oil and gas fields in Libya, the Libyan regime has used that as a leverage and a bargaining chip to say to the British government: 'We will not allow these business deals to go ahead unless Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is returned.' This is an absolute established fact in all the discussions between Tony Blair, Colonel Gaddafi, Saif Al Islam and all the other Libyan and British commissions, and that's why, just one final point...
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, one final point.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
That's why Jack Straw, the Justice Minister in Britain, wrote a letter to MacAskill and said to him very clearly, and I've got the quote, that there are wider implications to do with the trade relationships between Libya and Britain unless Abdelbaset Al-Megrahi is returned to Libya.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Okay, all right, Dr. Fetouri.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
It can't be clearer than that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
I don't know where this speaker is getting his facts from. I mean, there's nothing to prove this...
GUMA EL-GAMATY
From Britain, because Britain is transparent and the information is available...
MUSTAFA FETOURI
Can I have my turn? I don't know where he is getting his facts from. There's no proof of this. The British government has denied it, Libya has denied it and there's no connection. We can't just assume things. This is the first thing. The second thing is this. Libya or Britain, the Labour government in Britain now, they do not have any way of making sure that this will not come out later on, after two months, three months, two years, three years, after even 30 years. I mean, even then they will have calculated what will be the consequences if such information comes out, and that's why it's absolutely, and I'm absolutely certain, it's the justice system in Scotland that made way for Megrahi's release. It's not a quid pro quo, it has never been and they can understand if such talk or a claim is coming from ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri, okay, you've made your point. Thank you. Okay, Dr. Fetouri, you've made your point. On the point of fact actually Jack Straw was asked, and this was an interview in the Daily Telegraph, he was asked if trade and BP, the oil company, were factors in his decision to cave in to Libyan demand and include Megrahi in a Prisoner Transfer Agreement, and he replied: 'Yes, it was a big part of that, I am unapologetic about it.' That's a direct quote from Jack Straw.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
Absolutely.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
Tim, can I just say on that point on politicians.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Very briefly.
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
I'm speaking from the point of view of the politician, and can I just say I'm speaking as the only elected politician on the panel. When you allow politicians, no matter which society you live in, if you allow the politicians to start to influence the courts and interfere in the courts, that is the start of destruction...
TIM SEBASTIAN
And your party would never do anything like that?
DANIEL KAWCZYNSKI
...and damage to democracy. Well, we certainly wouldn't be like Gordon Brown, I can tell you that for nothing. But that is a terrible thing, and this decision by Mr. MacAskill who is a politician, heavily influenced by Jack Straw and others - that is the critical thing, because the court itself, and with all respect to Dr. Swire, we must respect the court and this court convicted the man.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Dr. Fetouri, one point.
MUSTAFA FETOURI
One more point. Kenny MacAskill acted because he wanted to preserve the integrity of the justice system in Scotland.


Compassion vs retributive justice or vengeance
AUDIENCE (F)
I'm from Iraq. My question is directed to Dr. Swire. If it was strongly proven to you that Mr. Megrahi was guilty, don't you think that he should return to Libya in a box in the same way you received your daughter Flora?
JIM SWIRE
I perhaps should hesitate to say this in this company, but I am a Christian and Jesus Christ is recognised by Islam as a prophet at the very least, and one of the things he taught was that we should try to extend love, even to those who are regarded as our enemies, and speaking at the personal level, I hope that even if I believed that Megrahi was guilty, which I do not now believe, I hope I would have the generosity to follow that advice and to allow him to go home to die with his dear wife and family.
[Applause]
Because, if I could just finish that. Thank you for your applause. If I can just finish that. We're all heading on this desperate, delicate planet for disaster if we don't do something soon, and we have to learn how to treat each other as if we were all brothers, and that is the message that I am so glad to be able to try and put across tonight. Let us get there.
[Applause]
TIM SEBASTIAN
Very quickly, Mr. El-Gamaty, very quickly.
GUMA EL-GAMATY
Just like to say that as compassion is important, there is a principle which is far more important which is the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, otherwise this world would descend into chaos, and that is the precedent which the British government sent the wrong signal, that we could tamper and mess around with the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.


The Result

The vote is 53% for the motion, 47% against.
The motion has been carried.


What is your impression of this debate?
What questions would you have liked to ask?
Which position would you have voted for? Why?
What broader international forces and interests were at play in your opinion in the Lockerbie case?
Why do  the Arab League and its observer Egyptian Nabil Elaraby seem to have been and continue to be so silent on this case?
What is your impression now of the release of Al-Maghrehi as it comes up on a full year of freedom for him?
Do you agree with Libya's decision to disculpate him?
What does it say that Libya received him as a hero, and reversed the verdict (at least from their perspective?
Does compassion for the dying apply to all? How imminent must be their death?
What is it like to be a student abroad when your country is in the international headlines for all the wrong reasons?
How does it impact your life, your interactions with others, your plans, and your ability to realize them?
Any other comments, thoughts, experiences?

4 comments:

Shafiq said...

These Doha Debates are really annoying - the contentiousness, contradictions, obfuscations and misrepresentations get me so riled up that my response usually ends up an incoherent babble. I've decided to breathe a little first and post a structured response, which hopefully makes sense.

I remember the uproar the release of Al-Magrehi caused. To simplify it to the basics, there are two questions that people are attempting to answer in this debate:
1) Was Al-Magrehi rightly convicted of the Lockerbie bombings or was it a miscarriage of justice?
Allowed answers: Yes, no, it’s irrelevant to question 2, the court said yes so we have to accept the decision, don’t know.
2) Was the release of Al-Magrehi on compassionate grounds justified?
Allowed answers: Yes, No
Note: If the answer to question 1 is no, then question 2 becomes slightly irrelevant.

I have multiple answers to question 1 – No & the court said yes so we have to accept the decision. It’s clear that Al-Magrehi was innocent, but one has to go through the system to prove your innocence. One of the reasons Al-Magrehi was released was simply because the results of his appeal via the Court of Appeal would have caused an even greater uproar. Release on compassionate grounds allowed the Scottish government to control the chain of events and prevented the embarrassment of a wrongful conviction (luckily we don’t have the death penalty – posthumous pardons are even more embarrassing).

My answer to question 2 is yes. And that would remain a yes, even if I believed Al-Magrehi was guilty (which he still is in the eyes of the law). I also believe that he should have been allowed to continue the appeal. I’m pretty sure he was given a choice between continuing the appeal and being released – I understand why he chose the latter, especially when you’re told you have three months to live.

Some important points to note, which became blurry during the debate:
- The release of Al-Magrehi was on compassionate grounds (an aspect of Scottish Law, NOT English Law), NOT using the Prisoner Transfer Agreement, which leads me on to the next point.
- The decision was made by the Scottish Justice Secretary (of the Scottish Nationalist Party) NOT by the British Justice Secretary Jack Straw (of the Labour Party). The decision to release him was made entirely by the Scottish government under Scottish Law. The Prisoner Transfer Agreement was being negotiated by Jack Straw and the British Parliament.
- The United Kingdom has three different legal systems: English Law for England & Wales, Scots Law for Scotland and Northern Ireland Law for Northern Ireland. Recently also, we have introduced devolved government, which has meant that Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (but not England) have their own governments/assemblies, which govern some internal affairs such as Education, Law & Order etc. In this specific case, the British government (which represents the whole country) had authority to release Al-Magrehi as part of a PTA but the Scottish government also had authority to release him under compassionate grounds.

To be continued...

Shafiq said...

Now for some observations of the debate:
Al-Magrehi is still extremely ill and could die very soon. Some have tried to portray the ‘three months to live’ as a cynical attempt by Al-Magrehi to get freedom – it wasn’t.

Many of the comments by Guma El-Gamaty were asinine. Right from the very beginning he conflates the Libyan government with Al-Magrehi. It was Al-Magrehi who wanted to be release and it was him who decided to drop the appeal, not the Libyan government. There was no appeasement and no shady business deals (although the PTA was linked to trade agreements). This was a decision made by the Scottish government about a person who was in a Scottish prison, convicted under Scottish Law, which allows for compassionate release.

The comments about business deals about oil and gas fields were lame conspiracy theories. Britain meets most of its oil demand from Norway and itself and gas needs are mostly met by Qatar and Norway. Although BP is pretty important to the British economy, it’s not owned by the British state, nor is it a fully British company (40% of shares are American-owned, 39% are British-owned and the rest are owned by others). The comments made by Jack Straw were firstly misrepresented and secondly irrelevant to the release of Al-Magrehi.

Then there are the comments about the Libyan massacres of political prisoners. The Libyan government never asked for Al-Magrehi to be released on compassionate grounds, they asked for him to be included in a PTA (where he would be transferred to a Libyan prison). There was no hypocrisy on the part of the Libyan government, nor did the Scots take any notice of its wishes. The killing of prisoners in Libya although heinous, is again irrelevant to Al-Megrahi’s release. Even if it was though, the idea that we should not be compassionate to prisoners because Libya isn’t to hers is a bit daft.

Just like to say that as compassion is important, there is a principle which is far more important which is the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, otherwise this world would descend into chaos, and that is the precedent which the British government sent the wrong signal, that we could tamper and mess around with the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
This closing sentence by El-Gamaty was really annoying and smacks of either ignorance or deliberate misrepresentation. The judiciary’s responsibility is to decide whether a person is guilty of a certain crime or not and how serious the crime was. It’s the government’s responsibility to decide what constitutes a crime and what punishment to impose. Al-Megrahi was found guilty by the judiciary of a serious crime. The judge would have then used Scottish Law (as decided by Scottish governments) to decide what punishment to impose. The decision made by Kenny MacAskill was to reduce his punishment on the grounds of Al-Megrahi’s illness – a legitimate and commonly used aspect of his authority.

More to come....

Susanne said...

Very interesting debate. I actually decided to watch it. Only my second watching of a Doha Debate and you know the first was the ultra important women are superior to men debate you posted a few days ago. :)

It seemed like one side really had gripes with the Libyan gov't and the "regime." There were Libyans in the audience as well and the pro-motion guy (Gupta?) who sounded so much like a certain Syrian I know in talking about his own country's lack of justice and political prisoners. I couldn't help but sympathize with those men although I knew that wasn't the point of the motion.

I found Dr. Jim's idea that if the man died in prison he would become a martyr interesting. It seemed to unfold later in the debate as he was questioned more and more.

Honestly I was surprised a great sampling of Arabs (audience members who asked questions) were against the release and challenged why he was released and how it would send a wrong message to terrorists. For some reason I thought they would overwhelmingly support their fellow Arab and expected the audience input to reflect this by attacking the British conservative and the Libyan for the motion.

The last young lady seemed almost smugly cruel in the way she asked Dr. Jim about getting the remains of his daughter in a box. Boy, did he stun me with his reply though! I actually had to listen to that three times. Kind of took the winds out of my sail and showed me once again what a tough position I have gotten myself into sometimes as both a conservative and one who tries to follow Jesus. I am often reminded of this. Even Samer says, "Susie, is this what Jesus would do?" and I have to evaluate my first inclinations as an American to what my first inclinations SHOULD be as one who follows Christ. AND I have to decide which is more important - being American or following Jesus. And how do I "mesh" it all and come to grips with the contradictions.

For sure, it's my own "kingdoms in conflict" life. :)

Enjoyed this! I want Samer to see it. Too bad he is enduring exams presently. Maybe I'll have him view it when these next two weeks of exam hell are over. :)

Thanks much, Chiara. I also found the info at the beginning interesting as I didn't realize it's nearly been a year since that guy was released.

Shafiq's comments have also been very interesting. I'm learning a lot!

Shafiq said...

Some more comments:

I sympathise slightly with some of Daniel Kawczynski's comments with regards to the Police shooting, but again, the idea of holding Mr Al-Megrahi hostage until we make some progress on finding out who was responsible for killing Ms Fletcher, is wrong.

He does make a legitimate point about the decision-making process involved with granting releases. Does the severity of illness overrule the first three deciding factors? Well, that's a subjective decision and Mr MacAskill decided it was.

I'd like to think the release sent out a positive message - a message of compassion. I can't put it any more succinctly than Dr. Swire did.

One last thing. If Al-Megrahi didn't do it, then who did? Well, most likely the Iranians in retaliation for this, the bombing of Iran Air Flight 655

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails