THINKING IN A CIRCLE--It was the merciful thing to do, to release Megrahi (all other things being equal), if, indeed, he has an extremely short time to live. This should be true, no matter that he is given a hero's welcome in Libya. The Libyan government and people have their own agenda concerning this that should not enter into the evaluation of whether to release him or not.
The matter about the agreement with the British government certainly throws an ethical complication into the matter. It's easy to be cynical about its behavior, that someone benefits monetarily--and politically, if the situation had not come to light. Surely the people involved realized that the truth would surface.
Still, regardless of the fact that some people stood to benefit from his release should not outweigh whether it is morally right to release him or not.
The obligation to the families of the victims is more problematic. Here is, I think, where the point of the fulcrum balances the two sides: humanitarian gesture to the perpetrator or obligation to the families of the victims. Further, it is a democratic government (Britain) that is supposedly there to serve the people. In this case, then, perhaps the release should not have occurred.
When my mother-in-law (who had been my seventh-grade teacher) was murdered on Christmas eve in 1991, my (former) spouse and I cared nothing about revenge. We only vaguely and unspokenly assumed "justice" would be done, which meant that since the perpetuators were teens, they probably were sent to a camp for a couple years. We never talked about revenge or retribution. Never. The monstrosity of the crime and the course that it set for the several of us left alive to deal with the history and reality of her absence could never have been rectified or assuaged in the least by a tooth-for-a-tooth dispensing of justice. I frequently look at my teen daughter and think about her absent grandmom who would have added immeasurably to my daughter's life. Justice, yes; retribution, no. It would not have added anything positive to our situation.
If I were a member of one of the Lockerbie families? Well, it's difficult to imagine being in their shoes, but--very honestly, and to reverse myself from what I wrote above--it would bother me probably a great deal that Megrahi was welcomed as a hero. I could go for some humanitarian gesture, but not if he shows no remorse. But, I wonder whether he was not a pawn in the hands of the Gaddafi government? Surely it was using him for its political benefit.
Ah, the complexities of human affairs! Makes life interesting, does it not? Sometimes it makes me begin with one position, and then think in a circle.