My friend Irene comments on the place of compassion in the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.  The reason for my question to myself  on Monday was that I made a statement on the day of the release suggesting that the Scottish Government had made a compassion-shaped choice.  This is what I said:

“The decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi is a brave political choice taken in the face of strong pressure from outside Scotland.  We respect and honour the courage which the Scottish Government has shown.

“On one side of the balance is the suffering caused by this appalling act of terrorism and the need to sustain public confidence in our system of
justice.  On the other side is the need to consider whether, in circumstances such as these, justice should be tempered with mercy and compassion.

“This decision sends to the world an important and positive message about our values.”

The Church of Scotland issued a rather more forthright statement in the same terms.

I think that politicians who make values-driven choices in the face of international opposition deserve our support.  I remain content with what I said.  I just feel somewhat disappointed as I watch the apparent clarity of that choice seeming to ebb away.


  1. No, it is not the greatest treason. The right action is the right action. We are called on to do it and to support it.

    Our own motives are rarely really pure. What we need to do is to lift our eyes from us, ourselves, our motives, and to look with eyes that are as clear as we can get them at what the will of God is – and then to do it.

    In the same way with others. If they do the right thing we support it, and if we have to say over and over: ‘What they did was right, even if their motives were not wholly right.’ then we say it.

    We are responsible for what WE do and WE support- not the sins or muddles or mixed ideals of others.

  2. I too thought you were clear – clear enough to make me proud. But I agree about the subsequent muddying of the waters – are we getting to the situation where someone is seen “to do the right deed for the wrong reason”? I seem to recall that that was “the greater treason”…

  3. What was disturbing to me was that the USA government were so critical of Scotland when their own bomber, William Rogers, didn’t spend any time in jail at all.

  4. I think you were quite clear. I agree that it does takes courage to make value-driven choices. So few politicians (or people in general) are willing to do so.

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