Justice should be tempered by mercy. That was the thinking of the government of Scotland when it decided to release Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, who is suffering from terminal cancer, from prison, eight years into a 27-year minimum sentence for blowing up an airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, and killing 270 people.

But that show of humanity has unleashed a firestorm of controversy. Critics argue that compassion from the government should be matched by a similar demonstration by al-Megrahi himself, a step he has never taken. More disturbing still are reports that the Scottish decision was influenced by the British government’s desire to improve ties with Libya. London has vehemently denied the accusation, but questions linger, clouding an already emotional and difficult decision.

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