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Israeli Foreign Ministry Raps Greek Government for Delaying Trial of El Al Attackers

The Israeli Foreign Ministry today sharply criticized the Greek Government for postponing the murder trial of Arab commandos who attacked an El Al airliner at Athens airport last December, killing one passenger and wounding a hostess. The commandos have been accused of premeditated murder in the death of the late Leon Shirdan, an Israeli, and the attempted murder of other passengers and crew members aboard the airliner.

In a statement issued here, the Foreign Ministry said “to postpone the legal proceedings required for the punishment of criminals of this kind is to ignore the due process of law and justice.” The ministry’s statement also condemned the Athens government’s motive in granting a postponement — Greece did not want to damage ties with Arab countries. “This is surprising, yielding as it does, the legal principles that oblige all governments to prevent acts of terror and murder against a friendly nation on its soil in favor of political expediency,” the ministry said. It added, “the postponement of the trial comes at a moment when all enlightened governments, and with them the air travelling public, demand the adoption of aggressive measures to restrain, put on trial and punish the perpetrators of piracy in the air, a trend that has found energetic support in the United Nations General Assembly.”

The Athens attack was followed up by an Israeli retaliatory raid on Beirut Airport in Lebanon, where the Arab commandos came from. More than a dozen planes were destroyed in the action which brought Israel a censure by the UN Security Council although no lives were lost.

The Greek Government’s action was contrasted by observers here with that of Switzerland which will soon try three Arab commandos who attacked an El Al airliner at Zurich airport last winter, fatally wounding an Israeli pilot trainee.