Achille Lauro Prosecutor Confirms More Arrest Warrants
GENOA, Italy (AP) _ International arrest warrants have been issued for PLO official Mohammed Abbas and several of his top aides, charging them with murder and kidnapping in the Achille Lauro hijacking, a prosecutor said on Tuesday.
The United States has accused Abbas, head of a faction of Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization, of masterminding the Oct. 7-9 Mediterranean ordeal in which an American passenger was killed and thrown overboard.
Abbas, whose present whereabouts were not known, previously denied he was involved in the hijacking.
At an impromptu news conference, Deputy Prosecutor Luigi Carli also told reporters that one of the four accused hijackers had admitted killing Leon Klinghoffer of New York City.
Carli announced that arrest warrants containing charges of murder and kidnapping have been issued for 16 suspects in the hijacking.
The warrants include four Palestinians accused of taking over the ship after it left Genoa, three suspected accomplices who are also in Italian custody and nine whose whereabouts are unknown, Carli said.
Abbas and several of his aides in the PLO’s Palestine Liberation Front faction are among the nine fugitives.
When reporters asked Carli whether Abbas could be considered the mastermind of the hijacking, he replied, ″Yes, you could say that.″
One day earlier a Genoa court convicted five of the suspects in custody on charges of possessing weapons and explosives used in the takeover of the Italian luxury liner, including the four accused hijackers.
The five convicted Monday are Youssef Magied al-Molqi; Mohammed Issa Abbas, a close confidant and distant relative of Mohammed Abbas; Ahmed Marrouf al- Assadi; Ibrahim Fatayer Abdel-Latif and Bassam al-Ashker. They were sentenced the same day, receiving prison terms ranging from four to nine years.
The prosecutor said that al-Molqi, the self-styled leader of the four accused hijackers, had admitted killing Klinghoffer.
In Monday’s trial, al-Molqi described his Kalashnikov rifle as the one he used in the most serious crime he is charged with.
Mohammed Issa Abbas was charged as an accomplice. He was not accused of being a hijacker.
Carli said the murder and kidnapping warrants for all 16 were issued over a month-long period, the latest last week. The trial based on those warrants will will probably be held next spring and suspects not in custody will be tried in abstentia, he said.
Mohammed Abbas, the Palestine Liberation Front leader, helped negotiate an end to the hijacking on Oct. 9 and was with the four accused hijackers aboard a flight out of Egypt when U.S. jetfighters forced the plane down in Italy. Italian officials said they had no grounds to hold Abbas and allowed him to leave the country, despite U.S. protests.
Carli said on Tuesday that another suspect was aboard the plane carrying Abbas and the four accused hijackers. He identified him as Ozzuddin Badrakkam, also known as Abu Oz, 39-year-old military leader of the Palestine Liberation Front. He is not in custody.
The seven others still at large are
-Abdul-Rahim Khaled, alias Abu Amar, who held the rank of colonel in the Palestine Liberation Front and scouted out the ship on earlier cruises, Carli said.
-Ziad al-Omar, a front official who bought tickets in Genoa for the four accused hijackers, according to Carli.
-Abu Ali Kazem, one of Mohammed Abbas’ bodyguards, who accompanied the hijackers in Italy, said Carli.
-Abu Kifah and Mohammed al-Khadra, described by Carli as close associates of Mohammed Abbas. The prosecutor said the two men delivered a red Renault 9 carrying automatic rifles and hand grenades to the four hijackers when the car landed in Genoa aboard a ferry from Tunisia.
-Mohammed Jarbua, who Carli said had planned to board the ship with the other hijackers in Genoa.
-Yussef Hisham Nasser, accused by Carli of helping the hijackers in Italy. Carli identified the two other suspects in custody as Yussef Ali Ismail, arrested in a campground outside Rome, and Hussari Ibrahim, ″a so-called PLO official.″ Carli did not explain what he meant by that, but said both men were ″minor figures.″