Armenian Group Asks Chirac to Free Political Prisoners
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ An Armenian underground group on Saturday asked the French government to speed up negotiations for the release three Middle East terrorists jailed in France.
The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia said it was ″leaving the door open for French Premier Jacques Chirac and his government to deal positively with the case of Middle Eastern political prisoners.″
It has warned of an increase of terrorism in France if their demands were ignored.
″We hope (Chirac) will speed up the release of political prisoners Varoujan Garbidjian, Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, Anis Naccache and their comrades,″ the group said in a hand-written statement.
ASALA is a Marxist group believed to have close links with the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Soviet Union. As one of three major Armenian nationalist groups, it has accused the Turks of slaughtering 1.5 million of their ancestors from 1915-16.
Armenia, the ancient kingdom of Asia Minor, includes northest Turkey, the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic and parts of Iran’s Azerbaijan region. It has been ruled by foreign powers for most of its history.
The Arabic-language statement, signed by ASALA spokesman Vahran Vahranian, was delivered to the office of a Western news agency in west Beirut.
Three ASALA leaders were quoted as saying in an interview published Friday in Paris that their group had halted the string of five bombings in Paris last month because the French government had opened negotiations.
″We are waiting for the French government to keep its promises, if not we’ll restart even tougher operations,″ an ASALA leader identified as Mihran Mihranian was quoted as saying in the interview with the Le Monde newspaper.
France’s Foreign Ministry denied that negotiations were underway with ASALA.
″The Foreign Ministry confirms that the French government is engaged in no negotiations with any terrorist organization whatever,″ a ministry spokesman said Friday. He was not identified by name in keeping with government practice.
″What the French foreign ministry spokesman has said certainly does not concern us... We are not terrorists, we have a cause,″ the ASALA statement said.
ASALA has not claimed responsibility for the Paris bombings, which killed 10 people and injured 162 during a 10-day period in early September. But it joined the Committee for Solidarity with Arab and Middle East Political Prisoners in demanding the freedom of the three from French jails.
Garbidjian, an Armenian, is serving a life term for the 1983 bombing at Orly airport that claimed eight lives. Naccache headed the terrorist unit tha tried to kill former Iranian Premier Shahpour Bakhtiar in 1980.
Abdallah is charged with complicity in the 1982 killings in Paris of U.S. military attache Lt. Col Charles Ray and Israeli diplomat Yacov Barsimentov. Four of Abdallah’s brothers have been accused by French authorities of involvement in the Paris bombings.