The argument over the release of Lockerbie bomber al-Megrahi is being framed as an argument between those who want "justice" - that is, making a mass murderer serve out his term; and those who want "compassion" - that is, releasing him.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill was clear on which side he was coming down:
“Compassion and mercy" - he defended his decision to release al-Megrahi - "are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by,
remaining true to our values as a people – no matter the severity of
the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated.”
The problem is, however, that this all assumes an extremely narrow definition of "compassion".
Making al-Megrahi comfortable in his last days; treating his illness to the best of our ability; perhaps allowing relatives to visit him in prison - that, too, is compassion; the kind of compassion you show someone found guilty of mass murder.
They did not have to release him in order to remain "true" to their "values" (apparently punishing mass murder is no longer a value in Scotland nowdays). There is no contradiction, necessarily, between wanting justice and showing compassion.
It makes you wonder, yet again, why they really did let him go, and makes the recent doubts about his medical condition all the more worrying.
Kenny MacAskill must be praying that Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi will
die very soon, but I wouldn't bet on it on it. Some of you may recall Ernest Saunders
who was jailed for his part in the Guinness Affair. Saunders successfully won his release after convincing the judge that he was suffering from pre-senile dementia associated with Alzheimer's disease, which is incurable. He made a full recovery.