By Oliver Farrimond
THE GRANDSON of Muhatma Gandhi has backed Kenny MacAskill’s decision to release Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.
Speaking just days before Alex Salmond compared MacAskill to Gandhi at the SNP’s annual conference in Inverness, Arun Gandhi said that the Justice Secretary was a “kind and compassionate” person, and that “eye for an eye justice makes the whole world blind”.
And while the First Minister’s pronouncement has been met with criticism from senior opposition figures, the fifth grandson of the revered spiritual leader offered an endorsement after meeting with MacAskill during his visit.
He said: “He seems like a very kind and compassionate person.
“And I think that eye for an eye justice, which many Americans believe in, is not right.
“It only makes the whole world blind, and one can never be satisfied with that kind of justice because you’re always looking for every little bit to be paid back again.”
MacAskill’s decision to release Al-Megrahi was heavily criticised both in Scotland and abroad, with the many of the strongest voices of dissent coming from America.
However in his address to the SNP conference, Salmond once again threw his support behind the Justice Secretary, saying that MacAskill had “broken the cycle of retribution” in line with Muhatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence.
He said that during a meeting with Arun earlier in the week, he had been told that dedication non-violence and compassion was “a strength not a weakness”.
75-year-old Arun, speaking in an exclusive interview during his visit last week to Scotland’s universities and community centres, added: “I’ve heard many people say that Al-Megrahi had an easy life in prison, as opposed to victims’ loved ones who suffered for hours or more.
“The consequence of that is that you carry that burden all your life, with all the pride, anger and prejudice that comes with it, and you can end up destroying you own life in the process.
“Part of the philosophy of non-violence is learning to forgive. Not forgive and forget, but forgive and commit yourself to creating a world where this kind of madness never happens again.”
However senior Scottish Labour figures have criticised Salmond’s comparison, with shadow Justice Secretary Richard Baker accusing the First Minister of “losing his grip on reality”.
He said: “I am staggered that anyone would mention Kenny MacAskill in the same sentence as Muhatma Gandhi.
“The bragging that has gone on at the SNP conference about the release of the Lockerbie bomber is stomach turning, and will further damage Scotland’s reputation.”
“Alex Salmond is losing his grip on reality.”
Scottish Labour Leader Iain Gray said: “Alex Salmond seems to have gone over the edge.
“If he thinks Kenny MacAskill is like Muhatma Gandhi, what on earth does that make him?
“The reality is that this was the wrong decision taken in the wrong way.”