Achille Lauro Trial Attorneys Say PLO Should Pay Damages for Hijacking and Klinghoffer Murder

Attorneys for the Klinghoffer family, and for the owners of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, demanded in criminal court here Tuesday that the Palestine Liberation Organization be made to pay damages for the hijacking of the vessel last October and the murder of 69-year-old-Leon Klinghoffer “because he was Jewish.”

Oreste Terracini, representing Klinghoffer’s youngest daughter, addressed the court which is trying 15 persons accused of the hijack and murder, 10 of whom are still at large. Fourteen of the defendants are Arabs and one is Greek. “The man who shot Klinghoffer in his wheelchair was heartless but those who armed his hand were just as merciless,” Terracini declared referring to the PLO.

He dismissed the defendants’ claim that they were soldiers fighting for the liberation of Palestine. “No cause can justify such actions. Klinghoffer was killed because he was Jewish. If he had not been Jewish, some other passenger would have been murdered,” Terracini said. He added, “For some people the victim, Leon Klinghoffer, was an enemy but for many others he is a symbol of courage and sacrifice.”

HIJACKERS WERE MEMBERS OF SPLINTER GROUP

Lawyers representing civil plaintiffs supported Terracini’s demand that the PLO be held financially responsible. The actual damages will be fixed later by a civil court. The findings by the criminal court however will affect the assessment.

Edoardo Ascari, an attorney for the Lauro Line of Genoa which owns the Achille Lauro, insisted that the PLO is responsible although the accused hijackers were identified as members of the Palestine Liberation Front, a splinter group. Ascari rejected their claim that they are “friends of Italy.” He recalled last year’s terrorist attack at the Rome airport and the fact that the PLO provided arms and explosives to the Red Brigades. “What kind of friends are these?” Ascari asked.

The trial will resume Wednesday morning when additional civil damage pleas will be introduced. The prosecution will then address the court, summing up the evidence.

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