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US families outraged at release of Lockerbie bomber

Americans reacted with fury and grief over the release on compassionate grounds of the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing over Scotland that killed 270 people.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2009 08:19 IST

Americans reacted with fury and grief on Thursday over the release on compassionate grounds of the only man convicted of the 1988 Lockerbie bombing over Scotland that killed 270 people.

"You are talking about a mass murderer," said Susan Cohen after Scotland's justice minister ordered the release of the terminally ill Libyan bomber, 57-year-old Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet al-Megrahi.

"You commit mass murder, an act of terror, kill all of those innocent young people... and you are released for compassion?" said Cohen on CNN television.

Cohen's only daughter Theodora, a 20-year-old drama student at Syracuse University, was flying home for the holidays on Pan Am Flight 103 December 21, 1988 when it exploded over the village of Lockerbie, Scotland.

"You want to feel sorry for anyone, please feel sorry for me, feel sorry for my poor daughter, her body falling a mile through the air," Cohen said.

But in what was meant to be an act of mercy, the government of Scotland allowed the ailing Lockerbie bomber, who is sick with terminal prostate cancer, to return home to die in Libya.

Outraged relatives of the victims asked why so ruthless a terrorist should be granted compassion when their own loved ones died so violently.

They reserved particularly harsh words for Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who made the controversial decision.

"I am shocked that this one man can make this decision and allow this person to go back to Libya," said Kathleen Flynn, who lost her 21-year-old son JP at Lockerbie, speaking to Fox television.

Cohen, who called the Scottish government's decision "appalling," questioned the veracity of the medical reason given for his release.

"This is about the appeasement for oil," she told CNN television. "Big oil interests are in this. Lots of lobbyists," she said.

Like other relatives, she questioned how one public official could have the authority to free an individual found guilty of killing so many victims.

"We went to the trials and everything and there were three or five judges making all the decisions," she said.

"I don't think anybody should have had that authority to (free Megrahi)," she said.

Bert Ammerman, who lost his brother in the disaster, asked "where is the compassion for the victims and the families that have to live with this for the rest of our lives?" in an interview aired on Fox 5 television in New York.

For his part, MacAskill resisted political pressure from families and from other governments, including from the United States in making the decision to release Megrahi.

He said Megrahi could return to Libya to die because Scottish law required that "justice be served but mercy be shown."

"For these reasons, and these reasons alone, it is my decision that (Megrahi)... be released on compassionate grounds and allowed to return to Libya to die," he said.

"Our justice system demands that justice be imposed but compassion be available, our beliefs dictate that justice be served but mercy be shown," he said, in announcing the release.