ZURICH (Feb. 23)
Attention here focused today on the fate of Mordechai Rachamim, 22, Iraqi-born former Israeli paratrooper who killed one of four Arab terrorists in last Tuesday’s attack on an El Al Boeing 720B jet at Zurich’s Kloten Airport which injured a pilot. He reportedly admitted to Zurich District Attorney Dr. Jurg Rohberg that he was a member of Israeli security forces and said that he had fired in defense of the plane, its passengers and crew. Legal experts said that under Israeli or Anglo-Saxon law he would be acquitted automatically on grounds of self-defense, but under Swiss law, he faces charges of either homicide or manslaughter and a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison unless the judge decides that there were extenuating circumstances in his favor.
The three surviving Arab terrorists also face long prison terms if convicted. It was expected that they will be charged, among other things, with attempted murder, inflicting bodily injury, wilful destruction of property, use of explosives for illegal purposes and disrupting air traffic. Swiss police were reportedly searching for three other Arabs believed to have been accomplices of the four who carried out the attack.
Mr. Rachamim reportedly described the events of Tuesday to Dr. Rehberg. He reportedly said he was in a state of shock after the ### began and he saw a crew-member stagger out of the plane’s cock-pit streaming blood. He left the plane and ran toward a barrier behind which the terrorists were firing. He said that he fired automatically at the man aiming a rifle after shouting at him in English to throw away his gun.
He has been visited several times in jail by Israeli Consul General Moshe Gur-On. Under Zurich cantonal procedure, he will be allowed legal counsel only toward the end of the preliminary investigation. He has not yet seen a lawyer. Dr. Georg Freitvilla, legal advisor to the Israeli Consulate here, said that the trial of Rachamim, who has not been officially charged, could start at the earliest late next summer or in the fall. Swiss Federal Attorney General Hans Walder said in Bern that it might start later if the case came up before a Federal court instead of the Zurich cantonal court. This was not considered likely, however.
The jet flew home today following preliminary repairs. El Al sources estimated damage at least $100,000. The wounded pilot trainee, Yoram Peres, was still hospitalized. Doctors said he was rapidly recovering from wounds that had necessitated emergency surgery.
(In Athens, Algerian lawyers who will defend two Arab terrorists who attacked an El Al jet there last Dec. 26, killing an Israeli, said they thought the Zurich attack would help their clients’ case. Jacques Verges and Amar Ben Tumi told newsmen that they would ask prisoner of war status for the defendants. They said they would argue that their clients’ actions were not criminal but an act of war.