U.S. Ambassador’s Convicted Assassins Freed
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ An appeals court today freed two Lebanese men convicted of kidnapping and slaying two American diplomats and their driver in 1976, at the height of Lebanon’s civil war.
The three-judge panel ruled the slayings of U.S. Ambassador Francis E. Meloy, his economic counselor, Robert O. Waring, and their Lebanese driver, were covered under an amnesty for political crimes issued by President Elias Hrawi in 1990.
There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
Presiding Judge Moueen Osseiran read the court’s 22-page ruling and ordered Bassem Farkh, 39, and Namek Kamal, 46, freed.
The defendants, their relatives and friends reacted with shouts of ``Long live justice!″ and ``Long live Lebanon’s sovereignty!″
Meloy, Waring and the driver, Mohammed Moghrabi, disappeared in June 1976 at a militia checkpoint as they crossed the Green Line that separated Beirut’s Christian and Muslim sectors.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were found several days later on a beach in Muslim west Beirut, which was then controlled by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat’s guerrillas.
Farkh and Kamal were convicted and sentenced to death by a lower court in 1994.
Prosecutor General Adnan Addoum argued for the death sentence to be upheld. But defense attorneys said the two men had no role in the murders, and were only low-ranking members of a Palestinian-backed communist militia whose jobs were to provide food and fuel for their comrades.
News reports at the time of the murders said they was committed by unidentified radical guerrillas who fled Lebanon afterward.