Here's the ridiculous news item of the day:
CNN: The man convicted of murdering 270 people by blowing Pan Am flight 103 out of the sky above the Scottish town of Lockerbie two decades ago was heading home on Thursday after authorities set him free.
Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, 57, landed in Tripoli, Libya, about 2045 local time (1845 GMT), according to local media reports.He is suffering terminal prostate cancer and has three months to live, Scottish authorities said.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill ordered al Megrahi's release on compassionate grounds, saying he will be "going home to die."
"Our justice system demands that judgment be imposed but compassion available," MacAskill said. "Our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown."
The White House, which has urged Britain to keep al Megrahi behind bars, said it "deeply regrets" the decision.
President Barack Obama said: "We thought it was a mistake... We've also obviously been in contact with the families of the Pan Am victims and indicated to them that we don't think this was appropriate."
MacAskill said he accepted al Megrahi's 2001 conviction for the Lockerbie bombing, the worst terrorist atrocity ever committed on UK soil. He also said he supported a severe sentence.
But he said al Megrahi's lack of compassion for his 270 victims should not be a reason for Scotland to deny compassion to him.
Al Megrahi left prison Thursday, shortly after MacAskill's announcement and boarded a plane shortly afterwards.
Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie four days before Christmas in 1988, killing all 259 of those aboard the plane and 11 Scots on the ground.
Many of those on board the flight were Americans, and the U.S. government responded immediately to word of al Megrahi's release, saying it "deeply regrets" the decision.
"As we have expressed repeatedly to officials of the government of the United Kingdom and to Scottish authorities, we continue to believe that Megrahi should serve out his sentence in Scotland," the White House said in a statement.
The Scottish justice secretary said he decided not to transfer al Megrahi to a Libyan prison, even though a prisoner transfer agreement exists between the United Kingdom and Libya, but instead chose to set him free on compassionate grounds.
MacAskill said he believed the United States government and American families of the victims were led to expect before trial that whoever was convicted would serve out their entire sentence in Scotland.
"They did so on the basis of agreements they said had been made prior to trial regarding the place of imprisonment of anyone convicted," MacAskill said.
The U.S. attorney general, Eric Holder, was in fact deputy attorney general to Janet Reno at the time of the pre-trial negotiations. He was adamant that assurances had been given to the U.S. government that any person convicted would serve his sentence in Scotland."
The United Kingdom declined to back up those claims, leading MacAskill to side with the American position, he said.
Families of the Lockerbie victims have been sharply divided whether al Megrahi should be ever be released.
Susan Cohen, who lost her 20-year-old daughter, was adamant about her position, calling al Megrahi a "mass murderer" and his release "appalling."
"Are we so devastatingly weak now, have we lost all our moral fiber that you can say that Megrahi can be released from prison for a compassionate release? Where was his compassion for my daughter? Where was his compassion for all those people?" Cohen told American Morning.
Bert Ammerman, whose brother died in the bombing, called al Megrahi's release "ludicrous."
"First of all, he got his compassionate release when he got life imprisonment and not capital punishment, which Scotland doesn't have," Ammerman told CNN. He should have remained in prison, then after his death, his body could have been returned to Libya, he said.
"Two, he's going to be going back, even if he has terminal cancer, as a hero and he's going to be received as a hero in Libya," Ammerman said.
Al Megrahi was convicted in 2001 after the prosecution argued he had placed the bomb, hidden in a suitcase, on a flight from Malta to Frankfurt, Germany. There, prosecutors said, the bomb was transferred onto the Pan Am plane that went first to London's Heathrow Airport and then took off for New York.
Libya has formally accepted responsibility for the bombing and has compensated the families, though Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi later denied any culpability.
Al Megrahi was diagnosed in September 2008 with terminal prostate cancer, and medical officials have said his condition is rapidly deteriorating, MacAskill said. He said he declined an option to free al Megrahi and allow him to live in Scotland after senior police officers cited the severe security implications
Scotland will forever remember the crime that has been perpetrated against our people and those from many other lands," MacAskill said. "The pain and suffering will remain forever. Some hurt can never heal. Some scars can never fade."
He added, "However, Mr. al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal, final and irrevocable. He is going to die."
Anyone else find this ridiculous?
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