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Terrorists Go Free

Author: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
July 29, 2011
The Daily

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In 2009, Scotland released on “humanitarian grounds” Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. The purported Libyan intelligence officer had served only eight years of a 27-year minimum sentence. Afflicted with prostate cancer, he supposedly had only three months to live. Yet there he was this week on Libyan state television, appearing at a rally for Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli. He was in a wheelchair, looking frail, but he was undoubtedly alive.

This led William Hague, the British foreign minister, to say that a “great mistake was made when he was released.” It costs Hague, of the Conservative Party, little to lambaste the decisions made by the Scottish government with the tacit support of the previous British Labor government. But Hague is absolutely right. If only more governments — and not just Scotland or Britain — would heed his words.

Locking up terrorists would seem to be a no-brainer. Yet it's a lot harder than it looks. After the 1972 massacre at the Munich Olympics — the most notorious terrorist attack of its time — the West German government imprisoned the three surviving Black September perpetrators. And then released them after their compatriots hijacked a Lufthansa flight. Bonn was even accused of complicity in the hijacking, because government officials were so transparently happy to get these notorious killers off their hands.

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