There has been plenty of outrage over the release of Lockerbie Bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. The scenes of him arriving in Libya to a hero’s welcome have provoked disgust in the UK.
Why cheer a terrorist? It’s worth considering the situation from the Libyan point of view. First, al-Megrahi’s conviction was not water-tight. The manner of his identification by a witness in Malta was, I recall, highly irregular. I remember seeing a documentary about the case last year, which made me worry about the certainty of the conviction. And if Ordinary Britons are uneasy about the case, you can bet that Ordinary Libyans will be too. The conventional narrative there will be akin to that of the Guantanamo detainees – a Western power pursuing a vendetta against and unfortunate scapegoat.
This doesn’t take al-Megrahi’s side, or excuse Libya’s stte terrorism. But it does give an alternative explanation for the crowd’s exhuberance. It is more an expression of Libyan nationalism, than simply barbarians cheering a murderer.