Achille Lauro Trial Suspended for Three Days After Juror Asks to Be Dropped
Jun. 27, 1986
GENOA, Italy (AP) _ The judge in the Achille Lauro hijacking trial today suspended proceedings for three days to consider whether to drop a juror whom the chief prosecutor asked to leave the panel.
The juror, Silvio Ferrari, sent a letter to Judge Lino Monteverde today asking to be excused.
Ferrari told reporters he had received a letter Thursday from chief prosecuter Gennaro De Feo ''inviting'' him to leave the panel. He said the letter asked him not to talk about the reasons De Feo cited in asking him to leave.
Ferrari, a Communist member of the Genoa provincial legislature, said he had done nothing to compromise his position as a juror.
''I remain at the court's disposal as a citizen, just as I was on June 5 when I was selected for the jury and I agreed to serve,'' he said.
Monteverde told reporters that De Feo's letter to Ferrari contained no accusations, only an invitation to leave the panel. He did not elaborate. Monteverde said the trial would resume Tuesday.
Monteverde, another judge and six civilian jurors comprise the jury hearing evidence against 15 defendants charged in connection with the Oct. 7-9 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship.
There are six civilian alternate jurors.
Today's session was to have included arguments by a lawyer for Lisa Klinghoffer, a daughter of the crippled American passenger slain during the hijacking, Leon Klinghoffer.
Miss Klinghoffer and her sister, Ilsa, are seeking compensation for the death of their father, who was shot in the head and thrown overboard.
If the court rules there are sufficient grounds for the Klinghoffer daughters to claim compensation, then a civil trial would be held. If the civil court rules that compensation is warranted, the minimum amount specified by Italian law is 100 million lire, or nearly $67,000.
Presumably, the defendants in the current criminal trial would be held liable, and the owners of the Achille Lauro also might be called upon to provide compensation.
On Thursday, a defense lawyer and prison officials said a Syrian defendant in the case tied a sheet to a window bar in his cell and slipped it around his neck, but was found alive by guards.
A report from Novara maximum security prison said the act Wednesday evening by Mohawat Gandura, 37, was ''a theatrical gesture, given the presence of numerous personnel in the department at the moment.''
Gandura, a native of Damascus, Syria, is charged with helping the hijackers travel through Italy before they boarded the cruise ship in Genoa.
Emmanuele Lamberti, Gandura's lawyer, said he didn't know if his client intended to kill himself. Lamberti said Gandura was unconscious briefly after the incident.
The prison report said Gandura was uninjured.
''It was an act of desperation,'' Lamberti said in an interview. The lawyer said Gandura's ''instinct for self-preservation'' might have led him to make the attempt while guards were around in hopes they would intervene.
The defendants were transferred last week from a Genoa prison to more secure facilities at Novara, about 60 miles north of Genoa, after the hijacker accused of shooting Klinghoffer shouted threats in Arabic at the court Friday.
Youssef Magied al-Moqki, who shouted the threats, and three other Palestinians are accused of seizing the cruise ship. They are Ibrahim Fatayer Abdelatif, Ahmad Mahmoud Al Assadi and Bassam Al-Ashker.
Because he was only 17 at the time of the hijacking, Ashker will be tried later by a juvenile court.
Mohammed Abbas, a Palestinian leader also known as Abul Abbas, is acused of being the mastermind of the hijacking. He and nine other defendants are being tried in absentia.