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25 August 2009


Fr Dougal

I completely agree, GV. The American reaction is annoying, as they have such a different concept of crime, punishment,and retribution. I nearly blew several gaskets last night watching former Bushite Ambassador to the UN Bolton rabbiting on about how they should never have let us try him and they'd have executed him. Promptly followed by a report on the human rights abuses the CIA had engineered in its rendition sites. I do not think Scotland needs any lectures on the administration of justice from the US.


I am very sad to learn that his job may be under threat for making a compassionate, and lawful decision. The USA's demands for justice without mercy and the Tabloid's baying for blood (followed by many who articulate their point of view with "it's not fair") is heartbreaking.

Nothing can ever be said or done to restore those people and the families on both sides of the atlantic who still suffer the loss of their loved one. It can never be restored. All that remains is how Scotland treats a dying man.

In 3 months (or so) he has to have a conversation with God I wouldn't envy. If he did do it, he didnt act alone. And he's gone home to die with his family, who have surely also been punished. How he was greeted by his country was not and should not be a factor.

We can't make this right. Ever. We can only do the best we can with what we have. And revenge has to stop somewhere. If we let others drag us down to their level they will surely beat us with experience. By sending this man home, Kenny McAskill makes me proud to be a Scot.

The USA should be careful what they wish for when they ask for justice without mercy. Surely they shall reap what they sew. God bless America indeed, for they need it.


Strange that the conservative/Christian right are making much of the fact that Al-Megahri will face punishment from God for his crimes; surely , in their view, all Muslims will burn in Hell forever anyway? If Al-Megahri did become a Christian would they celebrate, or does their concept of forgiveness only run to Republican crooks like Colson?
There is also the problem that the evangelical model of a Perfect God who tortures people in Hellfire for eternity is no more moral or palatable than one who induces cancer as a form of criminal justice. Denouncing the latter to proclaim the former is self-defeating.


Personally I am sicked by MacAskill's decision - as well as America's bully boy threats.

Al Megahri no doubt thinks Christians will burn in hell. Why would he even consider christianity?

Can anyone actually give me a good argument as to why forgiveness and not punishment is a good thing?

Fr Dougal

How on earth do you know what Al Megahri thinks? The Quran tells Muslims to respect and honour Christians - maybe he believes that? (I think it unlikely he'll become a Christian, but he might just become a better Muslim - which would be good).

Punishment is not a bad thing, but justice requires more than simple punishment/deterrence. Ideally, there ought to be a restorative element and a redemptive element. A sentence should not only punish (by restricting liberty or depriving of money) but ought also to (if possible) seek to make amends (community service)and offer the criminal the chance of reformation (education, detox programmes etc). To limit the function of justice to retribution is just..American.

And note, the release was not acquittal or forgiveness: it was the compassionate release of a terminally ill convict to spend his last months with his family in his native land. Kenny MacAskill did not forgive Al Megrahi. As far as the law is concerned, he was found guilty and remains so.


How do I know? Because the Koran says non believers will go to hell. How would being a better muslim help him if you believe that non believers go to hell (if that's what you believe)? My comment was also directed to those who mentioned him comming to christianity.

Can you not respect someone you believe is going to hell?

To get slightly off topic, do you believe there is a restorative element to hell?

I realise that he was not released through forgiveness. I was more having a pop at those religious folk commenting recently about frogiveness on the issue. I didn't make that clear.

I do still think though that there is no case for compassionate release here. I assume that those directly involved were not consulted. A lot of people are still damaged by the effect of that terrorist act.

Fr Dougal

Qu'ran also says Christian and Jew will be treated with respect and will be judged on their actions. Do I believe non-beleivers will go to hell? I have a suspicion that there will be more believers than non believers in "Hell" - but I have no idea - that really is God's call, not mine. Do I believe in hell? As in the sulphurous pit, no. As a "Place of departed spirits" - maybe. As in the abscence of and seperation from God - yes.

The restorative element of hell - well, I do believe in purgatory, so...

Assuming that the directly involved weren't consulted would be a mistake. The bereaved were consulted. A majority of the Brits said yes to compassionate release, the US victims families said no. But with all due respect, someone whose judgement will be clouded by their experience of grief etc is not the person who ought to be making these decisons. That is why the decision lies with a Minister of the Crown, not a victim's vox pop.


The Koran still says non believers will go to hell. I presume you believe we will all be judged on our actions too and that I will go to hell.

I'm curious how you can reconcile believing that hell is an absence of god with it being restorative (if he is absent). I dont see the need to argue for their existence, as I dont think you can demonstrate your belief - I'm more interested in the consistency of your belief.

Is purgatory the same as hell? If not, the question still stands.

Do you have evidence the bereaved were consulted? Their emotional state though is a different question as to whether they have recieved justice or not. I agree though that mob rule should not be a basis for law, but I think in a case like this, further damage should not be inflicted on the innocent victims.

For what these things are worth, the last two polls I saw actually had about 70% of the UK population against the release.

EDIT: Just checked for figures. A poll in the Herald states 60% thought he should not be released, the figure for a populus poll was 61% and an ICM poll found 58% thought he should have died in Jail. That is not a majority of Brits saying yes to compassionate release.

Fr Dougal

I certainly believe we will all be judged on our actions (Christian, Jew, Muslim, Flying Spaghetti Monster Worshipper etc: as to whether you or I individually will end up in some place of eternal punishment (and the greatest punishment is seperation from God), I have no idea - that really is God's call not mine. I do my best to live a moral and Christian life, fail frequently and regularly ask for forgiveness, grace and mercy.

I think there is a confusion here over the nature and purpose of hell. It isn't and cannot be restorative. It's a final destination. I was arguing that restoration is a key element of judicial punishment in the British penal system in contrast to the more purely retributive approach of the US.

It has been made clear in Scottish press reports (The Scotsman being my main source) that all the families of the bereaved were consulted and that a majority of the the families of the British victims (to whom I was referring, not the general public) were in favour of compassionate release (not sure how big a majority). I agree that further damage if at all possible ought not to be inflicted on the bereaved but there is a complicating factor here. Al Megrahi has consistently claimed to be the victim of a miscarriage of justice. Given that he will almost certainly die before the appeal could have been heard, it is possible that the JS felt that compassionate release was the preferable rather than ideal option in the circumstances. Any commution of a sentence will cause pain to victims families, but that may be unavoidable in situations like this.

Purgatory is not the same as hell. But I'm off to church now and we'll talk about that later:-).


I think it's becoming clear that MacAskill did not seek expert advice here.

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