Thursday, September 10, 2009


The release of Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, 57, a man convicted in 2001 for his involvement in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, has caused international outrage and condemnation. Al-Megrahi, a Libyan national and a former Libyan intelligence officer, was released by the Scottish government on August 20 on compassionate grounds due to the advanced prostate cancer he is suffering from.

Al-Megrahi was convicted on January 31st 2001 by a panel of Scottish judges sitting in a special court in Camp Zeist in Netherlands.

He was convicted on 270 counts of murder he was charged with and was given a minimum prison sentence of 27 years. Although the west has strongly criticized the decision by Scottish government to release al-Megrahi, Scottish government has expressed no remorse whatever over its decision and has stood by it tooth and nail.

People like Martin Cadman who lost his son, Bill has also stood behind al-Megerahi’s release, and Maxwell Kerr, a Lockerbie resident, share Scotland’s decision further sharing his thoughts that he believes al-Megrahi is “innocent”. The Scottish government’s decision has been seen by many as a big mistake with Frank Lautenberg,a Democratic Senator from New Jersey calling it “an outrage” and that it is also a ”caving in”.

The united States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called al-Megrahi’s potential release as something ”absolutely wrong” adding that United States is “deeply dissappointed” and stopped there without elaborating.

Barack Obama on his part, speaking after the news of al-Megrahi’s potential release, only said that he was in contact with the Libyan government that should al-Megrahi be released he be welcomed not in ”some way” and that once he arrives in Libya he be under house arrest.

The international furore that has ensued as the result of his release has been aggravated by the hero’s welcome al-Megrahi was given back home. Now the question is: was the hero’s welcome anything serious to occasion such international reaction?.

Upon hearing the news that al-Megrahi is coming back into the oasis hands of his country, hundreds and hundreds of his countrymen flocked to Libya’s capital Tripoli to welcome him. Indescribably happy with his unexpected coming, some people waved Libyan flags others Scottish flags in a way that symbolized their missing him.

Upon arrival, al-Megrahi was accompanied by Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi in what UK and US call an “attempt to play down” al-Megrahi’s arrival in order to suit the wishes of the US and the UK. He was later reported by the ever-watching media to have embraced the Libyan leader. The smiling faces that welcomed al-Megrahi, their home man, has added salt to the wound created by his release.

After some silence on al-Megrahi’s release, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke of how he “repulsed” the scenes of al-Megrahi’s welcome. The Scottish government has also been under unrelenting western pressure for its decision to release the convicted Lockerbie bomber.

The president of the United States of America, Barack Obama speaking on the same issue of al-megrahi’s hero’s welcome spoke plainly. Al-Megrahi’s hero’s welcome is “highly objectionable” , he said. The western world’s condemnation over what it calls a ”hero’s welcome” is something not to be taken lightly in the political sphere .

Al-Megrahi’s release and of course everything that he does or says or others do or say to him now is as internationally newsworthy as was his handover, trial, appeals and conviction. Suffice it to say that Al-Megrahi’s story is a good field for a lucrative political gamble and, categorically speaking, there is no denial to that.

There has already been allegations from the international community going to the British and the Scottish governments accusing them of striking a deal with the Libyan government to free the bomber in exchange for greater access to the Libya’s gas and oil reserves-something both governments have vehemently gainsaid.

It upon this axiomatic political fact that no sane man would expect the international community to be mum, hence the reaction should not be every inch a nightmare.

For instance, Alex Salmond’s Scottish decision to free al-Megrahi will see him suffer a heavy loss when parliament meets-a situation analysis have said was deepened by national cerebrations and acclaim that al-Megrahi was accorded. In Britain, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats made scathing attacks to Gordon Brown.

William Hague, the shadow foreign secretary commented it’s to the astonishment of the Britons that it took five days for the prime minister to make a partial response. He went on accusing Gordon Brown of failed leadership because he, initially, had been unable give his opinion on al-Megrahi’s ruling when many people from different countries had commented on the Scottish government's decision.

As is already implicitly stated above, it would be unrealistic to expect comments on al-Megrahi’s release yet ignore the same on his welcome.Much as this story is a fertile land for politicking to gain the much-needed political milestones, I find most of the condemnation from the international governments and organizations as having undertones and overtones of fantastically absurd political manouvres.

In a nutshell,the western world’s many comments on al-megrahi’s story smacks of its deliberate attempt to ignore the What-Where-When –and-How of politics.Al-Megrahi’s so-called hero’s welcome is nothing but an expression of Libya’s tradition in as far as hospitality is concerned.It should be known that in Libya 97% of the population associates with Islam.

From this it can be seen that Islamic influences in the life of the majority Muslim Libyans cannot be underestimated.the religion of Islam encourages a spirit of brotherhood which I guess al-Megrahi’s welcome was just an expression of that.

Lest we do not know in Libya family life is fundamentally cherished with people living in apartment blocks.The simple thing the western world should do is to appreciate the traditions of Libya and for a moment part away with politics.

But a word of caution should go to the Libyans not to take the international reaction to be something to play games with,for al-Megrahi’s release has now become the laboratory for testing the super power’s influence and leadership.

But the point I am driving home is:the western world should live the Libyans observe their traditions without suppression or some other.

The world has had enough of politics in al-Megrahi’s story but he be excused this time for his welcome was a mere observance of Libyan tradition and not a slap in the face.

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