On December 21, 1988, Libyan intelligence agent Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi, acting on instructions from Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qadaffi, placed a bomb on board Pan Am Flight 103, destroying the plane in flight. The blast killed 270 people, including all 243 passengers (189 of whom were American), 16 crew members, and 11 people on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland.
After being sheltered for years by the Libyans, al-Megrahi was finally convicted of the crime in 2001 and sentenced to life imprisonment. After serving the equivalent of 11 days in prison for each victim, this mass murderer, now suffering from prostate cancer, was released by Scotland on “humanitarian” grounds. He arrived back in Libya, Amy Goodman reported on Democracy Now!, maintaining his innocence. In fact, Goodmanâ€™s report was a most sympathetic one, culminating in this self-serving statement from al-Megrahi, read by his attorney:
â€œI had most to gain and nothing to lose about the whole truth coming out, until my diagnosis of cancer. To those victimsâ€™ relatives who can bear to hear me say this, they continue to have my sincere sympathy for their unimaginable loss that they have suffered. To those who bear me ill will, the only thing I can say is that I do not return that to you.â€
Al-Megrahiâ€™s release, done quietly and resulting in his immediate house arrest upon his arrival back in Libya, would have been insulting enough to the families of the victims. What followed, however, was a disgrace of truly unimaginable proportions.
Libya, with the world watching,Â welcomed al-Megrahi home as a conquering hero. People danced in the streets. Some threw flower petals as he stepped from the plane. Al-Megrahiâ€™s release, occurring as it did during the Islamic “holy month” of Ramadan, has been perceived almost as a miracle by his well-wishers. “It’s a great day for us,” said a jubilant 24-year-old Abdel-Aal Mansour, one of the revelers. “He belongs here, at home.”
As a further slap to the international community, al-Megrahi will even be feted at next month’s celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of the military coup that swept the Libyan dictator Quaddafi to power.
The Libyans, of course, in the midst of their jubilation, have givenÂ no thought to the relatives of the victims who died as a result of al-Megrahiâ€™s state-sponsored terrorist act back in 1988. Those people are now forced to witness a state-sponsored celebratory spectacle. “You get that lump in your throat and you feel like you’re going to throw up,” said Norma Maslowski, a New Jersey native, whose 30-year-old daughter, Diane, died in the attack.
You do indeed.