Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lockerbie Bomber Released: Victim's Kin Seethe

The Lockerbie bomber, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment returned to a hero's welcome in Libya on "humanitarian grounds". Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, was reportedly suffering from prostate cancer and was given around three months to live by doctors who assessed his condition. His family had reportedly taken up residency in Britain and visited the convicted bomber regularly.

The judge in the case says he was bound by "Scottish values' to release the bomber, who received a thunderous welcome from a waiting throng upon his return to Libya. Despite the hollow claims of "Scottish values", it should be noted that the victims were American as well as other nationalities. Al-Megrahi had claimed innocence of the charges. The sole reason for releasing him should have been that he was wrongfully convicted. There is a legal procedure for asserting and proving a wrongful conviction. Until such evidence is presented and ruled upon, al Megrahi remains guilty. It would be far more fitting justice for a relentless cancer to gnaw at his prostate than to release him in a misguided act of mercy.

The British justice system is notoriously lenient. When a man was convicted in the murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl, the British government protested the death sentence that was handed down. CNN reported as follows on the case back in 2002.

"Although we support suspected terrorists being brought to justice it is well known that we oppose the death penalty in all circumstances," a spokesman told the Press Association.

"The Pakistani authorities are already well aware of our position on this issue."

UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw will go to Pakistan on Saturday after visiting India on Friday, the spokesman added.

The death penalty in Pakistan is traditionally carried out by hanging."

"When 10 year olds Jon Venables and Robert Thompson murdered James Bulger,age two, they lived far better during their eight years incarceration than they did at home. The judge gave a stern speech at sentencing about how they would remain imprisoned for a very long time. When they turned 18, the government spent $8 million dollars to release them under assumed identities. CNN reported as follows about the manner in which a 15 year minimum sentence was whittled down to eight years.

"The trial judge called it "unparalleled evil and barbarity" and gave them an indefinite sentence.

British Parliament Member Michael Howard, then Home Secretary, imposed a 15-year minimum on the amount of time they should spend behind bars. "If a murder of this kind, this terrible kind, had been committed by adults, they would have served, in my view, at least 25 years in prison," Howard said. "Now obviously you have to make an allowance for the fact that those who committed this particular murder were young. And that was the sort of consideration that led me to the view that 15 years was the appropriate time."

The public, outraged by the crime, supported him. But a few years later, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Howard had overstepped his remit. That decision cleared the way last fall for a senior British judge to, in effect, rule the boys should be released at 18."

Britain has notoriously lenient sentences for murder. A powder wigged judge named Lord Woolf unveiled sentencing guidelines back in 2004 that could reduce sentences for murder to as little as ten years.

Then there is the story of the man from Romania who traveled to Britain to commit a rape because his brother had written him about the great conditions in British prisons. The Daily Mail reported as follows about that bizarre case.

"In January, a pre-sentence report revealed Majlat had told a psychologist: 'When I was on the railway station I thought I should rape this lady in order to get a place to eat and sleep and learn the English language.'

Hearing this was understandably difficult for Louise. 'I felt so angry. It's awful he would come over to do things like this, that I should have suffered for that. The judge was appalled.

'I think they should send him back to Romania where the prisons are worse and make him learn his lesson as he's got it easy here. I also think that prison in Britain should be harder.'

Last Friday, a judge at Leeds Crown Court granted Majlat his wish and ordered him to serve an indeterminate custodial sentence.

'I was really pleased with the sentence. I went to court for it, as although I never want to see his face again, I needed to see for myself that he was being taken away,' says Louise.

'I do feel justice has been done because his barrister says he has changed his mind about prison since being bullied and beaten up while on remand. But it is important to me that he will be deported afterwards, that he won't be allowed to stay here and hurt someone else."

The people of Britain have long suffered the effects of a criminal justice system that does not reflect their righteous indignation. Lenient sentences have for years been an affront to the feelings and safety of the public. It is now the world community that shares the outrage of the people of Britain. By organising a hero's welcome forAbdel Baset al-Megrahi the Libyan government has spit in the face of Lockerbie's 270 victims . As terrible as this may be, they could not have done it without the Scotland's judiciary. As the families of Lockerbie's victims now mourn in anger, they understand far better the suffering of the British citizenry.

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