Lockerbie Victims Furious at al-Megrahi's Release
As al-Megrahi arrived home to a hero's welcome, relatives of the dead are angry.
LONDON, August 21, 2009 — -- As the only man ever convicted of the 1988 Pan Am 103 bombing arrived in Libya to a hero's welcome Thursday, relatives of the passengers who perished are asking how a man convicted of murdering 270 people can be released. How can he be shown compassion when he showed none?
All 259 passengers -- most of whom were American -- and 11 people on the ground died when Pan Am flight 103 crashed in the town of Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21,1988.
Former Libyan intelligence officer Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi was convicted in 2001 on all 270 counts of murder and given a life sentence. But Thursday night al-Megrahi, returned home a free man.
Twenty years ago, families of the dead grieved. Today they are angry.
Susan Cohen's only child Theodora, a student at Syracuse University, died when a bomb in the plane's baggage compartment brought the plane down.
"He is convicted of mass murder -- a convicted terrorist," Cohen said in an interview with ABC News. "It was a plane full of young kids going home to New York for the holidays. She had everything to live for... This has destroyed my life."
Al-Megrahi was indicted by the U.S. and Scotland in 1991. Libya refused to extradite him, but put him under house arrest.
In an 1991 interview with ABC News, al-Megrahi insisted he was innocent, asking, "Why would I go there [to Scotland] to have to prove that I am innocent?"
He was eventually put on trial and convicted in the Netherlands, but served only eight years of the life sentence imposed after the 2001 conviction.
Last night, al-Megrahi said, "To those victims' relatives who can bear to hear me say this, They continue to have my sincere sympathy."