Former Hostage Says His Captors Wanted To Exchange Him For Prisoner
PARIS (AP) _ A Frenchman held hostage in Lebanon in 1985 today testified at the trial of a Lebanese terror suspect that his captors were members of an underground group and wanted to exchange him for a group member jailed in France.
The witness, Gilles Peyrolles, said his captors identified the imprisoned colleague as Abdelkader Saadi. The defendant, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, carried a passport issued to Abdelkader Saadi when he was arrested in France in 1984.
Abdallah, 35, is charged with complicity in the Jan. 18, 1982, murder of Lt. Col. Robert Ray, a deputy U.S. military attache, and in the April 3, 1982, killing of Yacov Barsimantov, an Israeli diplomat.
He also is charged with complicity in the March 26, 1984 attempt to murder of Robert O. Homme, then U.S. consul-general in Strasbourg.
Abdallah has been described as a member of the Lebanese Armed Revolutionary Faction, which claimed responsibility for all three attacks.
Peyrolles was director of the French cultural center in Tripoli, Lebanon, when he was kidnapped March 24, 1985.
He testified today that his captors were members of the FARL and told him they were negotiating ″to liberate their comrade, who was unjustly arrested in France.″
Peyrolles said he was able to identify two of his captors as Abdallah’s brothers, Maurice and Robert Abdallah.
There have been widespread reports in the French press that France agreed through Algerian intermediaries to release Abdallah in exchange for Peyrolles.
The reports were never confirmed by the government.
Peyrolles was freed April 2, 1985. The same day, police investigators searched a Paris apartment rented by Abdallah and found the Czech-made pistol they say was used to shoot Ray and Barsimantov.
According to press reports, the government decided it had to renege on the Peyrolles-Abdallah exchange.
Abdallah’s lawyer, Jacques Verges, has claimed the reports are accurate. He told reporters today the exchange agreement proves the French government did not believe Abdallah was guilty of any serious crimes.
Verges has contended throughout the trial that France is prosecuting Abdallah only at the demand of the United States, which is a civil party in the case.
Until the apartment search, Abdallah only faced charges of possessing false papers. He was later convicted of associating with criminals and possession of weapons, explosives and false papers and given a four-year sentence.
If convicted of the charges of complicity in murder, he could be sentenced to life in prison.
Abdallah attended the first part of Monday’s opening session, but since then has refused to come to court, as is his right under French law.
In testimony Wednesday, a top official of the French counter-intelligence service Direction de la Surveillance, or DST, said Abdallah was merely a ″little chief″ of an FARL commando team, not the head of the group.
The testimony of Raymond Nart, deputy director of the DST, contradicted a Nov. 8, 1984 report by a DST agent suggesting Abdallah ″directly organized ... terrorist actions organized by FARL″ in France.
Georges Kiejman, a lawyer representing the United States, has suggested the DST withheld information on Abdallah and the FARL from police investigating the Ray and Barsimantov killings.
Abdallah was arrested in October 1984 when, fearing he was being tracked by the Israeli secret service, he went to a Lyon police station asking for protection. He was actually being tracked by the DST.