The Scottish government announced Thursday that it was freeing the only person convicted in the Lockerbie bombing, permitting Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, a 57-year-old former Libyan intelligence agent, to return home on compassionate grounds after serving 8 years of a 27-year minimum sentence on charges of murdering 270 people in Britain's worst terrorist episode.
The decision to release him early on compassionate grounds was made against strenuous American opposition after Mr. Megrahi's lawyers said he had little time left to live because he is suffering from terminal prostate cancer.
The announcement at a news conference by Scotland's Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, came almost 21 years after a bomb smuggled onto Pan Am Flight 103 exploded at 31,000 feet over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on Dec. 21, 1988, killing 259 people on board and 11 on the ground.
Of the dead, 189 were Americans. The Scottish decision was certain to provoke anguished protest from American families of the victims who had demanded that he serve his full sentence. [...]