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Arafat Sued Over Ship Hijacking

June 5, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Two Americans on Monday sued Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for their suffering in the 1985 hijacking of a cruise ship, in which an elderly American who used a wheelchair was killed.

Lawyer Avi Leitner filed a suit claiming $5 million in damages from Arafat and Mohammed Abbas, head of the Palestinian group that hijacked the Achille Lauro ship off the coast of Egypt in 1985.

The plaintiffs are Sophie Chasser, 84, from Hollywood, Fla., and Ann Schneider, 87, of Great Neck, N.J., Leitner said. He said he filed the suit after hearing that Abbas, who is free in Gaza, has been in Jerusalem to attend Palestinian meetings recently.

After hijacking the Achille Lauro, a Palestinian cell connected to Abbas segregated Americans from the other tourists and then killed Leon Klinghoffer, dumping him overboard. Chasser and Schneider were among the American passengers, Leitner said.

Leitner, who represents a group called ``Stop Terror,″ which blames Arafat’s Palestinian Authority for attacks against Jews, wrote in a news release that the suit ``is likely to invoke a harsh Palestinian reaction,″ as Israel-Palestinian peace talks are at a sensitive stage.

After signing the first interim peace agreement with Israel in 1993, Arafat called off armed attacks against Israel by his followers. ``Stop Terror″ charges that the Palestinian Authority continues attacks.

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