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Self-Described PLO Official to be Tried on Arms Charges Dec. 11

December 5, 1985

VERONA, Italy (AP) _ A Jordanian who said he was a PLO official and is suspected of planning to free four Palestinians accused of hijacking the Achille Lauro will be tried on charges of illegal possession of arms and explosives, court sources reported today.

The man, who was arrested last week and identified as Omar Sadat Salem Abdel Fatah, would face a jail term of up to 12 years if convicted at the trial to be held Wednesday in the northern Italian city of Verona.

Police say the suspect is in a maximum security prison. Local magistrates decided on the trial to try to keep the suspect in jail pending completion of the investigation into the alleged breakout plan.

Police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, have said their suspicion that the suspect would try to free the Palestinians was based on wiretaps and weeks of following the man.

Mario Giulio Schinaia, the deputy prosecutor of Verona who is leading the investigation into the Oct. 7 hijacking of the Italian ship off the Egyptian coast, has refused to confirm the police reports. An American passenger was killed during the hijacking.

Police arrested the man in a house near Verona Nov. 28 after uncovering explosives, submachine guns, pistols and detonators in the building.

The man told police he was an official of the Palestine Liberation Organization and that the arms were intended for terrorist attacks against Syrian targets in Holland.

Police officials said they did not believe his story. Thee are several U.S. and NATO military bases near Verona.

Police said they had determined the suspect was in Italy when the Achille Laruo was commandeered.

The Italian news agency AGI said police in Genoa, where the probe of the Achille Lauro is based, went to the prison where the hijack suspects are being held to show them a photograph of the man.

Update hourly