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10 Achille Lauro Hijackers Sentenced; None Found Guilty of Murder in the Death of Klinghoffer

Ten Achille Lauro hijackers were given sentences ranging from life to six months imprisonment by a criminal court here Thursday for “kidnapping for terrorist ends which resulted in the death of a person.” One defendant, a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court. Four others were acquitted.

But none of the accused was found guilty of murder in the death of Leon Klinghoffer, 60, the American Jewish passenger shot in his wheelchair and dumped overboard after the hijackers seized the Italian cruise ship in Egyptian waters last October 7-9. (See separate U.S. State Department reaction story.)

The life sentences were pronounced in absentia on Abu Abbas, 37, leader of the terrorist group known as the Palestine Liberation Front; his “chief of staff” Ouzudin Badratkan, 39; and Omar Al-Zaid, 25, described as the PLF treasurer. They and seven others are still at large and were tried in absentia. Abbas allegedly masterminded the hijack.

Magied I-Mulqi, a 23-year-old Palestinian accused of killing klinghoffer and ordering crewmembers to throw his body into the sea, was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. According to Italian legal experts, the facts surrounding the murder were vague and the evidence too circumstantial to warrant a conviction for murder.

Mulqi, one of the five accused in custody, would in any case have received a life sentence, the maximum penalty allowed under Italian law.

The verdict was decided jointly by a panel of six jurors and two magistrates who began their deliberations Monday after a 17-day trial. It was read to a packed, heavily guarded court by presiding Judge Lino Monteverde.

Ibrahim Abdel Latif, 21, Mulqi’s deputy, drew a prison sentence of 24 years and three months. Ahmed Maruf Al-Assadi, who turned states evidence at the trial, was sentenced to 15 years and two months. The others found guilty drew sentences from six months to seven years and six months in prison. All of the defendants were cleared of charges of “belonging to an armed gang,” the blanket charge usually made in cases of terrorist activities.

The three leaders given life terms and the three others given long sentences were ordered by the court to individually pay 30 million Lire (approximately $20,000) to each of Klinghoffer’s two daughters, Ilsa and Lisa.

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