Archive for the ‘Spain’ Category

Libyan Terrorist Released

August 20, 2009

Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who was convicted of plotting the bombing of a Pan Am jet that exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, has been released from prison by Scottish authorites.  Megrahi was released on humanitarian grounds because he is dying of cancer.  He is returning to his native Libya.

The release of Megrahi was strongly opposed by the US, which lost 188 citizens in the terrorist attack.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and several prominent senators, including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, officially protested the move.

The Megrahi issue highlights the different views taken by the US and European countries about how to treat convicted terrorists.  The US tends to adopt a “lock them up and throw away the key approach,” putting convicts in prison for the rest of their lives, whether they be foreigners or American citizens.  European nations have often pursued a different approach, believing that many terrorists can be rehabilitated and should receive shorter sentences.  Germany released most Red Army Faction and Baader-Meinhoffterrorists whose goal was to spark a communist revolution and overthrow the government.  Spain has freed members of ETA, a Basque separatist group that killed civilians as well as members of the security forces.  Italy did the same thing with people in the Red Brigades, a Marxist organization.  Some countries outside of Europe also attempt to rehabilitate terrorists, including Saudi Arabia, which has released militants closely linked to Al Qaeda after they participated in rehabilitation programs. 

It should be noted that the US has sent some Guantanamo detainees to their home countries to be dealt with by foreign governments, but none of the men released had been convicted of crimes.

Analysts such as Douglas Fraser have suggested that the British government was motivated by economic interests when it decided to release Megrahi.  There are major opportunities for British firms in the financial services, oil, construction and health sectors of the Libyan economy.  Libya is also a large supplier of oil and natural gas, and European leaders undoubtedly see the African nation as an alternative energy source vis-a-vis Russia, which is viewed as an unreliable supplier.  However, it is impossible to know if Fraser’s claims are true.