HUFFINGTON POST
09/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Lockerbie Bombing: Families React To Abdelbaset Ali Al-Megrahi's Possible Release

Emotions are running high among the families of the Lockerbie bomb victims over news that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi may be released early on compassionate grounds.

Currently serving a life sentence for the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing, al-Megrahi has been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, leading to speculation among the British media that he could be released.

US families and British families appear generally to take opposing views on the issue, with many Americans believing al-Megrahi is undoubtedly guilty, while British people have been less convinced.

US families who lost loved ones in the bombing have questioned the choice of releasing the bomber on compassionate grounds.

American parent Kathleen Flynn, whose son was killed, spoke to the BBC about the release, saying, "Did Megrahi as he planted a bomb on a US airliner reflect on any compassion for the people he was about to blow up out of the skies and the people on the ground in Lockerbie? I think not," she said.

Susan Cohen, also from America, lost her daughter in the bombing, spoke about how sick she felt upon hearing the news and said the idea of releasing al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was "vile".

"This is total, pure, ugly appeasement of a terrorist dictator and a monster," Cohen said, AP reports.

Bert Ammerman, whose brother Tom died on board the Pan Am flight, called the release "insane, immoral, reprehensible," reports Reuters.

Reactions differed among British family members, many of whom have focused on al-Megrahi's illness and their doubt over his guilty verdict.

Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora died in the attack, said he would be "delighted" if al-Megrahi was released, "as it is inhumane to keep him locked up," AP reports.

Mr Swire also said he doesn't believe the verdict was correct.

Pamela Dix, whose brother Peter was killed, said that it was of great importance that al-Megrahi's appeal is heard in court to help families find out what happened in the bombing, Reuters reports. She added that she has not been "absolutely convinced" of either his guilt or innocence.

Rev John Mosey, whose daughter Helga died, said of al-Megrahi, "We should show him some Christian compassion", writes AP.

Al-Megrahi's release has not yet been confirmed, however. Scottish ministers have said news of the release is "complete speculation", says the BBC.

AP quotes the Scottish Justice Minister Kenny MacAskill as saying he has made no decision yet, but that al-Megrahi's medical condition was certainly a factor for consideration.

However, Reuters have reported a Libyan official as saying the deal to release al-Megrahi and return him to Libya is in the final stages.

U.S. officials have told the BBC that they have not received any information regarding a possible early release for the bomber, but say they believe he should continue to serve his sentence.

The former British Ambassador to Libya, Oliver Miles, has suggested the information that al-Megrahi's release is under consideration may have been leaked to allow officials gauge public reaction and the response of the victims' families, says AFP.

The only person to have been convicted of the bomb attack, al-Megrahi's life sentence conviction was seen by many as a significant step towards improving relations between Libya and the West.

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