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The penalty to be paid by convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi isn't harsh enough. Unless he can win an appeal to higher Scottish courts, the Libyan intelligence officer will serve 20 years for killing 270 civilians and shattering the lives of their families.

But even if the sentence is too lenient, something has been gained in the verdict that found al-Megrahi guilty for the tragedy of Flight 103, even while acquitting a Libyan airline manager who had been charged along with him.

The 1988 terrorist bombing that tore apart Flight 103 and claimed all those victims - including Colleen Brunner of Hamburg - now has been linked in court to Libya. The court found reason to describe al-Megrahi as a Libyan intelligence agent "of fairly high rank" who traveled on a false passport. There can be little doubt he was acting on government orders.

Al-Megrahi's pain - a month's confinement for each victim - is no match for the pain of Lockerbie's families. But this shouldn't be about revenge, it should be about justice. This verdict clearly places the blame where it belongs - and that's not just on al-Megrahi.

The legal case against the accused was based largely on circumstantial evidence, and the three judges of the Scotland court noted that prosecutors had called witnesses who lied. Yet there was enough of a pattern of action, they decided, to convict al-Megrahi unanimously.

It was important for the United States to pursue this case, not only to demand justice for the 189 Americans lost in this tragedy but to demonstrate that pursuit of terrorists will be unending and unrelenting. International sanctions caused Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi to surrender both suspects for trial, and seem to have lessened Libya's role in international terrorism.

Gadhafi and Libya still face a civil lawsuit by the Lockerbie families, and America rightly kept its own trade sanctions in force while international ones were lifted in the extradition deal. President Bush also is right in his intent to push for an outright Libyan admission of responsibility and the payment of compensation to the families.

But Libya's terrorism, through this verdict, already has been exposed. The punishment may not fit the crime - but then, what punishment could?

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