In 2001, former Libyan Intelligence officer Abdel Baset al-Megrahi was convicted by a panel of Scottish Judges of 270 counts of murder, having taken part in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, which killed 259 people on the plane and 11 on the ground in Lockerbie, Scotland. He was sentenced to life in prison.
Today he was freed by the Scottish government and has boarded a plane to Libya.
“Obviously the president and the administration again expressed deep sympathies to the families who live every day with the loss of a loved one as a result of the tragic events on Pan Am 103,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said this morning. “The administration expressed to the UK government and the Scottish authorities our strong belief that the sentence should be served out in Scotland. And we deeply regret the decision they made today.”
Al-Megrahi, diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, has been given a prognosis of only months to live, so Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill freed him, saying he was motivated by Scottish values to show mercy.
"Some hurts can never heal, some scars can never fade," MacAskill said. "Those who have been bereaved cannot be expected to forget, let alone forgive … However, Mr. al-Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power."
“We are extremely disappointed with the Scottish Executive's decision to release Abdel Basset Mohamed al-Megrahi,” said U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in a statement. “The interests of justice have not been served by this decision. There is simply no justification for releasing this convicted terrorist whose actions took the lives of 270 individuals, including 189 Americans. Megrahi did not show and has not shown compassion for innocent human life, and as we communicated to the Scottish authorities and the UK government, it continues to be our position that he should have been required to serve the entire sentence handed down for his crimes. Our deepest sympathies go out to the families of those whose loved ones were killed in 1988 due to Megrahi's vicious actions.”