This morning the Scottish government released the only person convicted in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, after only serving eight years of a minimum 27-year-sentence for his role in the terrorist attack that killed 270. Megrahi, who suffers from terminal prostate cancer and whose release has been strongly and publicly opposed by the U.S., will return to Libya today to die in his home country. TNR published an editorial in May 2000 when the accused Libyan bombers were finally brought to trial, expressing dismay at the prospect of neither bomber on trial being convicted. The editors also lament the possibility that even if convicted, justice would fail to reach the real man believed to be behind the attacks, Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi:
In short, the United States may be about to hand Qaddafi a huge public-relations victory, one that may even help bolster his hideous regime. Qaddafi is already preparing, threatening to follow up the trial by suing the United States for the damages Libya has suffered as a result of international sanctions imposed after the bombing.
It gets worse. Even if the Libyan agents are convicted, Qaddafi still wins. That's because the Libyan leader, as part of the agreement to turn the suspects over, has been virtually guaranteed that the hand of justice won't come anywhere near him. Specifically, in the letter from U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan that cinched the deal, Annan reportedly promised Qaddafi that the trial would not "undermine" his government. U.S. State Department officials, who approved the letter, deny that it was intended to limit the trial's scope. But their credibility isn't helped by the fact that they've refused to make the letter public--agreeing only to read portions of it to the families of the Lockerbie bombing victims.
Be sure to check out the whole thing here.