Release in Athens of Terrorist Suspect Dims Hope in Italy of Trials for Attackers of Synagogue

The release from an Athens prison last month of a 24-year-old Palestinian terrorist suspect, Abdel Osama AI Zomar, despite a long standing extradition request from Italy, has diminished hope here that any of the killers responsible for the 1982 grenade and machinegun attack on Rome’s main synagogue will be brought to justice.

Osama is a prime suspect in the October 9, 1982 attack that killed a child, Stefano Tache, and wounded 37 other persons, most of them Jewish worshippers outside the synagogue. He was arrested on November 22, 1982 at Kipio on the Greek-Turkish frontier for smuggling explosives which included 60 kilos of dynamite, time bombs and other lethal material.

Osama was imprisoned with an accomplice, Mohammed Al Fayez, 32, a self-proclaimed “combatant for Palestine” who was not however implicated in the Rome attack. Both were sentenced on February 27, 1983 to 20 month terms at Korydallos prison in Athens. The two were released on June 22, nearly a month before their sentences were up. Their present whereabouts are unknown, although some Greek officials believe Osama is still in Greece.

The Italian government filed an official request for Osama’s extradition in January, 1983 and it was approved by 4-1 vote in the Assizes Court in Piraeus on April 29, 1983. But the Greek Supreme Court hedge ed on the lower court’s decision and deferred a final ruling until after the suspect completed sentence for his offenses on Greek sail.

The Italian authorities are clearly embarrassed and the Italian press has termed the affair “strange” and “unusual.” Two Italian magistrates, Luigi Gennaro and Pasquale Lapadura, were sent to Athens on February 10, 1983 to interrogate Osama. But they were not able to, in one instance because of what was described as “an incredible error” by an Athens court clerk and later because the suspect’s lawyer, Spyros Fitrakis, managed to have the interrogation date postponed. When the magistrates finally saw Osama, he refused to say a word, rendering their mission moot.

The Italian media have accused the Greeks of unpredented obstruction. They note furthermore that Osama and his accomplice received “surprisingly mild” sentences on the explosives smuggling charges in a country with very harsh laws for such offenses.

NEXT STORY