Seeking the truth

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, April 14, 2014


20 AUGUST 2009. A pleasant Saturday evening in Bacolod City. At 8 p.m., I switched on the television. To my surprise on BBC World I heard the dulcet Scottish burn of Scotland’s Minister for Justice Kenny Macaskill announcing the release from a Scottish jail of convicted bomber of Pan Am flight 103 in December 1988.

The bomber Abdebaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan airline official, was being released because, according to Macaskill, he was a cancer sufferer who had only three months to live. Macaskill said that under Scottish law prisoners were released if medical opinion was that they would die within three months. Al-Megrahi was going back to Libya “to die” intoned Macaskill several times.

The decision to release al-Megrahi was “mine and mine alone,” Macaskill said. Perhaps with the aid of several bottles of Bog’s Brew, the Negros craft beer, I found myself detecting a subtext.

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The possible subtext, not stated and not really implied although Macaskill mentioned that he had long telephone conversations with US Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was that Macaskill was not convinced of al-Megrahi’s guilt.

Al-Megrahi was convicted of placing the bomb on the plane and was sentenced to 27 years in prison by a special international court in 2001.

In 2007, the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission (SCCRC), not noted for favorable treatment of convicted criminals, nevertheless found several grounds for concern about Megrahi’s conviction. The main concern was that the evidence linking Megrahi to the bomb was obtained as a result of the US Justice Department making an undisclosed payment of US$3 million to two Maltese shopkeepers.

The good news is that al-Megrahi spent the next three years (not three months) with his family in Libya before he passed away.

The bad news is that the real truth of who planted the bomb on PA 103 may never be known and will never be brought to justice.

There is no Statute of Limitations for those seeking the truth.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 14, 2014.

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