The controversy rumbles on, fuelled in significant part by indignation (in reality, secret delight) that Megrahi has not died within the three month prognosis.
The arguments that follow from this fact, from the critics of the Scottish Justice Minister’s decision, usually include one or more of the following statements -
1. This proves the medical evidence was flawed.
It doesn’t – what it demonstrates is that offering a prognosis of death from a terminal illness is not an exact science, as abundant examples from medical statistics demonstrate. A rudimentary knowledge of statistics and probability show that forecasts based on probability include percentage confidence levels and confidence limits. In other words, doctors don’t have crystal balls, even though some of their critics have wooden heads and hearts of stone – they offer the best forecast they can, based on the evidence they have and their best clinical judgement.
2. This proves that Kenny MacAskill was selective in the medical evidence he chose to act on, in pursuit of some unknown political agenda of his own – or the Scottish Government’s - to release Megrahi.
This is patently nonsense. Kenny MacAskill took the decision in the full knowledge that, if he released Megrahi, he would be subjected to a wave of hostility that could well be electorally damaging to the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party and to relationships with some sectors of American political and public opinion. The First Minister was fully aware of these implications and of the price that would have to be paid for a legal and principled stand, but rightly allowed his Justice Minister to do his job, free from interference or political pressure.
3. The decision was a dirty deal cooked up with the Scottish Government by Jack Straw, BP, Tony Blair and the Libyan Government after their abortive attempt to secure release under the PTA (Prisoner Transfer Agreement).
The idea that the SNP Government, Alex Salmond and Kenny MacAskill would be part of such a deal is nothing short of risible to anyone with even the most superficial understanding of the relationship between the Scottish Government and the UK Labour Government, especially with these particular representatives of it.
Not even the promise of immediate independence for Scotland, the refund of all stolen oil revenues, full restitution for the havoc wreaked in Scotland by Thatcher and the Blair/Brown/Mandelson gang, and a full apology to William Wallace would have bought such a deal.
4. The decision was taken because the Justice Minister secretly knows that Megrahi was innocent of the Lockerbie bombing, and is defending the Scottish Justice system, the Scottish police and the shadowy US interests who perverted the course of justice.
Kenny MacAskill has indeed said that he took the decision in the belief that Megrahi was guilty – he could not have done otherwise and remained Scottish Justice Minister. If he ever entertained such doubts, he could have, should have and would have thrown his considerable authority behind calls for an enquiry into the Megrahi conviction. He certainly would not have chosen such a ludicrous and risky route to righting a judicial wrong and overturning an unsafe conviction.
(For the record, I believe that Megrahi did not act alone, and that the US bought, and may thus have compromised evidence advanced at the trial. I believe on balance that Megrahi was guilty, but allow for some possibility that he is innocent.)
However, it would appear that the only solution that might satisfy some of the more extreme critics of compassionate release based on medical prognostications of death in terminal illness would run as follows -
The dying man must sign a document saying that, if he does not die within three calendar months of the medical judgement and subsequent release, he will either return voluntarily to be executed by the releasing authority or alternatively have all medical care withdrawn. The doctors who made the initial prognosis should be struck off the medical register and the law officer who ordered the compassionate release should publicly resign in disgrace, wearing a sack and scattering ashes over his head, with full media coverage.
Any leading cleric who supported the release decision should be reduced to the lowest rank of their denomination and sent to a remote, and ideally dangerous and unhealthy part of the world. All who contested the release decision in the UK should be given a lifetime subscription to the Daily Mail. The leading opponent of the decision in the UK should be given a life peerage (Lord X of Vengeful) and the leading opponent in the US should be given a position as a Fox News presenter, thus ensuring that he or she will be a Republican Presidential candidate for the next election.
Provisions such as the above would provide conclusive proof that the United Kingdom and the USA were still Christian countries, and that their Christian/Judaic values were still intact.
The quality of mercy is not strain'd - it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice ---
William Shakespeare - The Merchant of Venice