US 'culture of vengeance' on freed bomber attacked

Scotland's Roman Catholic leader attacked America's "culture of vengeance" yesterday as he defended the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Cardinal Keith O'Brien said despite the "gratuitous barbarity" of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi – who the Scottish Government freed last year on compassionate grounds – ministers were right "to affirm our own humanity".

He accused the US justice system of being based on "vengeance and retribution" and said he was glad to live in a country where "justice is tempered with mercy".

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill freed cancer-stricken Megrahi on August 20 last year. He was given three months to live, but is still living with his family in the Libyan capital, Tripoli.

The decision caused uproar in the US and among many of the relatives of the 270 people he was convicted of killing in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

Cardinal O'Brien said: "In Scotland over many years we have cultivated through our justice system what I hope can be described as a 'culture of compassion'.

"On the other hand, there still exists in many parts of the US, if not nationally, an attitude towards the concept of justice which can only be described as a 'culture of vengeance'."

He added: "Scotland's legal system allowed the Scottish Justice Secretary to release Megrahi on compassionate grounds, following due process and based on clear medical advice."

The religious leader urged US Senators wanting to question Scottish and British government ministers to instead "direct their gaze inwards".

Highlighting the 1,226 people executed in the US since 1976, the cardinal added: "Perhaps the consciences of some Americans, especially members of the US Senate, should be stirred by the ways in which 'justice' is administered in so many of their own states."