US Religious Leaders Decry Release of Libyan

New York Prelate Calls for Justice Toward Abdelbaset al-Megrahi

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NEW YORK, AUG. 28, 2009 ( The archbishop of New York is calling for justice along with the mercy extended toward a Libyan man who was convicted a 1988 plane bombing that killed 270 people.

Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, was released Aug. 20 from a life imprisonment on the grounds of compassion.

After eight years of jail time, Scotland released the 57-year-old, who has continually maintained his innocence, due to the fact that he is dying of prostrate cancer.

Controversy arose when Megrahi was greeted by hundreds of people waving flags and celebrating his return to Tripoli, the capital of Libya.

As the majority of the victims were American, the U.S. authorities protested this public show of acclaim for a convicted criminal, and spoke out against the release of Megrahi.

Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York stated on Tuesday that this act was a «sad and perplexing mistake,» the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

He added: «While as a follower of Jesus Christ I believe in mercy, I also believe that mercy must always be tempered with justice.

«Mercy can be demonstrated in ways other than by releasing a man responsible for so much pain, suffering, and death. Those who lost loved ones also deserve mercy and justice.

«Finally we must consider that the release of this man could encourage others to engage in similar acts of terrorism in the future which would be a tragic result.»


A letter to the Scottish authorities from Robert Mueller, head of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations, affirmed that this act «makes a mockery of the rule of law» and «gives comfort to terrorists around the world.»

Archbishop Dolan was also joined by other religious leaders in New York in the condemnation of this decision.

Among these were the Episcopal Bishop Mark Sisk, Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, head of the New York Board of Rabbis, and Imam Mohammed Shamsi Ali, the leader of the city’s first mosque at the Islamic Cultural Center of New York.

Despite the criticism, on Monday, in an emergency session of Scottish parliament, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill asserted that he decided to release the Libyan because he felt «bound by Scottish values.»

Under the 1993 Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings Act, Scotland allows for a compassionate release of prisoners who have a terminal illness with less than three months to live. Although only a few prisoners apply for this release each year, most of them are granted, a total of 24 over the past ten years.

In a statement release also on Monday, Archbishop Mario Conti of Glasgow, Scotland, affirmed his country’s show of compassion, which is «one of the principles inscribed on the mace of the Scottish parliament by which Scotland’s government should operate.»

He stated, «Despite contrary voices I believe it is a decision which will be a source of satisfaction for many Scots and one which will be respected in the international community.»

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