Trial of Palestinian In 1982 Bombing Postponed Until October
KORYDALLOS, Greece (AP) _ A court on Monday postponed the trial of a Palestinian charged with participating in the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner, saying one of his defense lawyers was busy with another case.
Mohammed Rashid, 41, will begin his trial on Oct. 7, a three-member criminal court panel said at a hearing inside Korydallos maximum security prison.
Four witnesses, three FBI agents and a Palestinian, attended the session, which was to be the start of the trial.
Rashid, a Palestinian who lived in Iraq, is accused of planting a bomb aboard a Pan Am jumbo jet flying from Tokyo to Honolulu. The explosion killed a 15-year-old Japanese boy, Toru Ozawa, and wounded 15 people.
He is accused of premeditated murder, planting explosives and causing damage to an aircraft. If convicted he could be sentenced to death, but Greek courts automatically commute such sentences to life imprisonment.
One of Rashid’s lawyers, Nikos Kostantopoulos, a leftist member of Parliament, is serving as one of the special prosecutors in the corruption trial of former socialist Premier Andreas Papandreou.
″Although the felony charges in this case are extremely serious, his participation in the special court is a public service. He has to be there,″ Judge Michalis Karatzas said.
The defendant, who also receives legal assistance from the Palestine Liberation Organization, claims the case against him is fabricated. He says he is Mohammed Hamdan, a PLO official who lived in Beirut.
The United States sought Rashid’s extradition for three years after his arrest in Athens in 1988, but Greece instead decided to try him.
The trial will being held in a high-security courtroom inside the prison. Hundreds of police officers and elite members of the anti-terrorist squad on Monday guarded the court, where a bulletproof box has been erected to protect the key prosecution witness, Adnan Awad, a Palestinian.
Rashid told The Associated Press: ″They built this thing to protect the man who is in the FBI’s pay. He is their paid agent. But he will have to confront me and the court and everyone else. That thing won’t protect him from our questions.″
The case against Rashid began in August 1982 when Awad told U.S. authorities in Bern, Switzerland, that a terrorist group named May 15 had ordered him to blow up the local Hilton hotel.
May 15, a Baghdad-based group headed by Palestinian Abu Ibrahim, was the first terrorist organization that specialized in constructing nearly undetectable high-technology bombs that could be smuggled aboard aircraft.
U.S. intelligence agencies believe May 15 planted more than 15 bombs in aircraft and other Western targets starting in 1981, killing six people.