The decision to release Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi, the ailing “Lockerbie bomber,” on compassionate grounds was a Gandhian act, Scotland’s First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party Alex Salmond said on Sunday.

He said he was “proud” of his Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s decision to free Mr. Megrahi arguing that it was consistent with the principles of peace and compassion championed by Mahatma Gandhi.

“Sometimes, someone has to break the cycle of retribution with an act of compassion -- that is what Kenny MacAskill did and we should be proud of him for doing it,” he declared addressing his party’s conference in Inverness.

Mr. Salmond told delegates that Gandhi’s grandson Arun whom he met recently during the latter’s visit to Scotland told him that his grandfather’s philosophy was “much misunderstood.”

“One of the things he told me is that his grandfather’s philosophy is much misunderstood. His resistance was not passive, but active. His dedication to non-violence a strength, not a weakness,” he said.

His remarks came as the row over Mr. Megrahi’s release continued to rumble with families of the Lockerbie crash victims and the Opposition insisting on an independent inquiry into what they alleged was a “terrorist-for-trade deal”

Mr. Megrahi, who was serving a life-sentence in a Scottish jail for his role in the crash of a London-New York flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988 killing 270 people, was freed in August after being diagnosed with terminal cancer and following medical advice that he had less than three months.

Under Scottish law, a prisoner can be freed on compassionate grounds if the prognosis is that he would not live for more than three months.

However, the decision sparked accusations that Mr. Megrahi’s release was part of a deal with Tripoli to help British oil companies obtain Libyan business contracts.

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