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Court Frees Bombers Who Killed Seven, Including British Family

January 7, 1991

KHARTOUM, Sudan (AP) _ A judge today freed five Palestinians who had served less than three years in prison for a bombing that killed seven people, including a British family of four.

One jubilant defendant, Ibrahim Ali, said he would ″do it again, everywhere, ... until the liberation of Palestine.″

The five originally were convicted of assassination and sentenced to hang for the May 15, 1988, bombing of a hotel dining room and another attack on a nearby private club frequented by foreigners.

Sixteen months later, the Supreme Court ruled they should be able to pay compensation to escape the gallows. The court said the men’s crime was murder, covered by Sudan’s Islamic law blood-money provisions, not assassination, which is not.

In commuting the men’s sentence to time served, Judge Ahmed al-Bashir al- Hadi said he was being lenient because the murder had a ″political motivation. ... It cannot be looked at away from these motives.″

The Palestinians, who claimed membership in a group called ″Arab Revolutionary Cells,″ paid $30,000 to the family of a Sudanese army officer they killed and $25,000 to survivors of a waiter at the Acropole hotel.

The man who paid the money for the five, a Palestinian, was in court and celebrated with the defendants. But neither he nor his lawyer would reveal his name or say who provided the money.

Relatives of the British victims, all Quakers who do not believe in capital punishment, refused to accept money but had told the court through the British Embassy they wanted the men punished with long prison sentences at hard labor.

The Britons killed were Chris Rolfe, 35; his wife Clare, 37; their children Thomas, 3, and Louise, 1; and school teacher Sally Rockett, 32. All were relief workers who had just sat down for a Sunday night meal.

Several people were wounded in the bombing at the Acropole and subsequent submachine-gun attack on the Sudan Club.

The five men were arrested immediately after the attack on the club, which during Sudan’s colonial period was restricted to Britons.

The Palestinians admitted the 1988 attacks in court and said they were aimed at British and U.S. interests to avenge the killing a month earlier in Tunis of Khalil el-Wazir.

Also known as Abu Jihad, el-Wazir was a close adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat. He is widely thought to have been slain by agents of the Israeli intelligence service Mossad.

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