Megrahi release: Cardinal condemns US justice system

By staff

American anger at the release of Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi reflects their “culture of vengeance”, the head of the Scottish Roman Catholic Church has said.

Cardinal Keith O’Brien’s comments come as the first anniversary of Megrahi’s release approaches.

Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill made the decision to free the bomber on compassionate grounds after receiving advice he had only three months to live.

But Megrahi, who is believed to still be alive as he receives higher quality treatment in Libya, continues to be a source of huge controversy. Allegations that energy giant BP had lobbied the UK government over his release have provided an outlet for huge American public anger after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“At the core of this dispute, there seems to be what might be termed a ‘clash of cultures’,” Cardinal O’Brien wrote in an article for the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

“In Scotland over many years we have cultivated through our justice system what I hope can be described as a ‘culture of compassion’.

“On the other hand, there still exists in many parts of the US, if not nationally, an attitude towards the concept of justice which can only be described as a ‘culture of vengeance’.

The cardinal used the death penalty in America to illustrate his argument that there were questions about the US justice system which needed re-examining.

“Perhaps they should direct their gaze inwards, rather than scrutinising the workings of the Scottish justice system,” he suggested.

“I believe that only God can forgive and show ultimate compassion to those who commit terrible crimes and I would rather live in a country where justice is tempered by mercy than exist in one where vengeance and retribution are the norm.”

The 1988 Lockerbie bombing remains the worst ever terrorist atrocity committed in Britain. The destruction of Pan Am flight 103 left 270 people dead.

“It is in the midst of such inhuman barbarism, however, that we must act to affirm our own humanity,” Cardinal O’Brien wrote.

“It is in these moments of grief and despair that we must show the world that the standards of the murderer and his disdain for human life are not our standards. They may plunge to the depths of human conduct but we will not follow them.”