GENOA (Jun. 26)
Testimony by witnesses in the Achille Lauro hijack trial concluded on a painfully sad note Wednesday night when a hushed courtroom listened to Court President Lino Monteverde read, posthumously, a deposition made by Leon Klinghoffer’s widow, Marilyn Klinghoffer.
She described being held hostage with 10 other Americans and five British passengers on an upper deck of the Italian cruise ship when she heard two gunshots followed by a splash. The shots killed her husband and the splash was made by his body hitting the water.
Mrs. Klinghoffer, who died of cancer last February 8 at the age of 58, made the deposition to investigators on October 12, four days after her husband, confined to a wheelchair because of a stroke, was brutally murdered.
“I only knew of my husband’s death after the terrorists had left the ship,” Mrs. Klinghoffer testified in her deposition. “I asked the boat’s Captain if he knew who had murdered my husband. He said he did but could not tell me. I did not insist. He was obviously exhausted.”
SAYS BAR TENDER SAW KILLING
Mrs. Klinghoffer said an American doctor told her that he heard a ship’s bar tender witnessed the killing. Two passengers, Viola and Seymour Meskin, reportedly told the doctor that the bar man told them he had seen Klinghoffer bite one of the murderers before he was killed. But the bar man, under questioning by Italian police and the prosecution, denied that he saw the murder or that he told anybody he did.
The four defendants present in court Wednesday night included Magie Al Mulqui, 23, who is accused of murdering Klinghoffer with two bursts from an AK-47 assault rifle on October 8 and then ordering two crew members to throw his body into the sea.
Fifteen persons are accused of the hijack and 10 are being tried in absentia. One of those in custody, a 17-year-old who is a minor under Italian law, will be tried separately by a juvenile court.
Attorneys claiming damages on behalf of some of the victims and plaintiffs were to address the court Thursday. The court will recess afterwards to study the evidence and a verdict is expected next month.
The 10 wanted terrorists still at large include Mohammed Abbas, a Palestinian believed to have masterminded the hijack.