Death Comes Too Late

Well, the final tally is in, and not a day too soon. Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Libyan intelligence agent who was found guilty in 2001 of orchestrating the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 in 1988, is finally dead. Al-Megrahi is the only person convicted for his role in the act of terror that left 270 people dead, 189 of them American citizens.

One thousand six days. That's how long al-Megrahi lived after he was released from a term of life in prison by Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny McAskill. At the time of his release on grounds of "compassion," al-Megrahi was supposed to be within 90 days of his final demise, a victim of advanced prostate cancer. But, unfortunately, he surpassed that by a factor of more than eleven.

So now we have a number to assign to the insult that Secretary McAskill levied on the families of al-Megrahi's victims. They had waited more than 12 years to see someone brought to justice for the mass murder of their loved ones. In 2001, they could finally take some solace -- however insufficient -- in the fact that someone would pay for the murder of these innocent civilians. A life sentence would mean that the architect of the attack would die behind bars; isn't that how it's supposed to work?

Apparently not. In Secretary McAskill's mind, a life sentence means you will die behind bars for killing 270 people...that is, unless you get really sick first, in which case, you should be released to spend your final days with your loved ones.

Where's the justice in that? The Pan Am 103 families will surely find some relief in the fact that the time al-Megrahi he spent in his villa with his family is finally over. But there's no justice for them in his death. Unlike his victims, who died in the most horrific way over a foreign town, al-Megrahi died at home, surrounded by his loved ones, all of whom had the opportunity to say goodbye to him. The last thing al-Megrahi saw when he closed his eyes for the final time was the compassionate looks of his family. Compare that to the horrors that the Pan Am victims experienced.

Where's the justice? Al-Megrahi took with him to his grave information about his co-conspirators, which he never shared with investigators. He lived to the age of 60, while so many of his college-aged victims never saw a third of that time. And if that isn't enough for the families to bear, they have to read some arguments in defense of al-Megrahi's claims of innocence. Will the insults never end? No compensation to the families by the Libyan government will ever ease their pain.

For some people in this world, justice is never served. But for the families of the victims of Pan Am 103, the situation is even worse: justice was dangled in front of them, and then taken away in the most insulting manner.