Cardinal attacks US 'vengeance' culture


Scotland’s Roman Catholic leader attacked America’s “culture of vengeance” today as he defended the release of the Lockerbie bomber.

Writing in Scotland on Sunday, Cardinal Keith O’Brien said despite the “gratuitous barbarity” of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi- who the Scottish Government freed last year on compassionate grounds - were right “to affirm our own humanity”.

He accused the American 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”.

Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill freed cancer-stricken Megrahi on August 20th last year. He was given three months to live, but is 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.”

Cardinal O’Brien also backed the decision by first minister Alex Salmond not to send his ministers to the US for a Senate hearing.

“I too believe that Scottish ministers are accountable to the Scottish parliament and ultimately the Scottish people alone,” he wrote.

He concluded: “I believe that only God can forgive and show ultimate compassion to those who commit terrible crimes and I would rather live in a country where justice is tempered by mercy than exist in one where vengeance and retribution are the norm.”

The US senate foreign relations committee wants to investigate speculation that oil giant BP may have had a hand in the release.

A spokesman for Scottish justice secretary Kenny MacAskill welcomed Cardinal O’Brien’s “thoughtful and considered contribution”.

He said: “The Justice Secretary... granted compassionate release to Al Megrahi on compassionate grounds alone, based on the rules and regulations of Scots law.

“And as the Cardinal correctly observes, it is to the Scottish Parliament and people that Holyrood ministers are accountable, not the US senate.”