Arrest Warrants Issued For Abbas and Several Aides
GENOA, Italy (AP) _ A Genoa prosecutor said today he has issued arrest warrants for PLO official Mohammed Abbas and several of his aides charging them with murder and kidnapping in the Achille Lauro hijacking.
Abbas is accused by the United States of masterminding the Oct. 7 hijacking in which an American passenger was killed and thrown overboard. The whereabouts of Abbas remain unknown.
Deputy Prosecutor Luigi Carli also told reporters that one of the four accused hijackers had admitted murdering passenger Leon Klinghoffer of New York City during the two-day Mediterranean ordeal.
Five suspects on Monday were found guilty on charges of possessing weapons and explosives used in the takeover of the luxury liner, including the four accused hijackers. Two other suspects are also in custody.
The five convicted Monday are Youssef Magied al-Molqi; Mohammed Issa Abbas, a close confidant of Abbas; Ahmed Marrouf al-Assadi; Ibrahim Fatayer Abdel- Latif and Bassam al-Ashker.
Carli told an impromptu news conference today that an additional nine arrest warrants have been issued on kidnapping and murder charges, including one for Abbas, head of the Palestine Liberation Front faction of the PLO.
Carli identified the nine and said their whereabouts are unknown.
The five defendants convicted Monday were sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to nine years.
All seven suspects now in custody, including the five convicted Monday, also face kidnap and murder charges.
Carli said the murder and kidnapping warrants were issued over a month-long period, the latest last week.
Mohammed Abbas and the eight others still at large are being sought on international warrants and will be tried in abstentia if they are not captured, Carli said.
Abbas, the PLF leader, is a close associate of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. The PLO has denied Abbas was involved in the hijacking. Carli did not explain the role Abbas allegedly played in the hijacking.
Abbas helped negotiate the end of the hijacking on Oct. 9 and was aboard a flight out of Egypt with the four accused hijackers when U.S. warplanes intercepted and forced their Egyptian plane to land in Sicily.
Carli said another suspect was aboard the same Egyptian plane. He identified him as Ozzuddin Badrakkam, also known as Abu Oz, and said he is the 39-year-old military leader of the PLF.
The United States had asked Italy to arrest Abbas, but the Italian government said there was insufficient ground to hold him and allowed Abbas and his associate to leave Italy.
Other top members of the PLF who are sought by Italy include Abdul Rahem Khaled, alias Abu Amar, who had the rank of colonel in the PLF, Carli said.
Khaled boarded the Italian cruise liner with a false Greek passport in the name of Petros Flores, Carli said.
Carli said another fugitive, a Palestinian named Mohammed Jarbua, had planned to board the ship with the other hijackers in Genoa.
The ticket for the four Palestinians who hijacked the ship were bought in Genoa by Ziad El Omar, a PLF official, Carli said.
In addition, Abu Ali Kazem, one of Abbas’ bodyguards, accompanied the hijackers in Italy, Carli said.
He said Mohammed Issa Abbas, one of the five convicted Monday, brought automatic rifles and hand grenades into Italy secreted in a red Renault 9 that disembarked in Genoa from a ferry from Tunisia.
Issa Abbas was arrested at the docks with false passports but two other Palestinians took the car and the weapons to the hijackers, the arrest warrants say.
Carli identified the two as Abu Kifah and Mohammed Al Khadra, whom the suspected hijackers described in court as close associates of PLF leader Abbas.
Carli said the ninth fugitive is Yussef Hisham Nasser, who he said helped hijackers in Italy. The prosecutor did not elaborate.
The prosecutor said the self-styled leader of the hijackers, Magied al- Molqi, had admitted he killed Klinghoffer while in custody.
″He didn’t kill him because he was a Jew but because he was an American,″ Carli said.
The prosecutor said investigation of the case was basically finished, but under Italian law, it must be turned over to another investigating magistrate who will decide on indictments after reviewing the case.
A trial was not expected until next spring.