WASHINGTON (Jul. 10)
The United States expressed Thursday both satisfaction with the outcome of the trial in Italy of the hijackers of the Achille Lauro and regret that the person who murdered an American hostage on the cruise ship received only a 30-year sentence. (See related story, P.I.)
“The United States is pleased that persons responsible for the death of an American citizen and injuries and damages to others have been convicted,” State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb said. “We hope that these convictions will deter terrorist acts in the future.”
The Italian jury handed down a life sentence Monday in absentia to Abu Abbas, the head of the terrorist Palestine Liberation Front, who is believed to have masterminded the hijacking of the Achille Lauro. His whereabouts are unknown.
The court gave a 30-year sentence to Magied Al Mulqi, a 23-year-old Palestinian accused of shooting Klinghoffer and ordering crew members to dump his body into the sea. However, neither he nor the others on trial were convicted of murder.
“We note that Abu Abbas got a maximum sentence under Italian law,” Kalb said. “We regret that the murderer of Leon Klinghoffer was not treated more severely.”
Kalb stressed that the U.S. government “has reserved its legal right to seek extradition of the hijackers” once the legal process in Italy is completed. He noted that in Italy both the defense and the prosecution have the right to appeal the sentences given by a jury. He added that successful prosecutions have frequently resulted in more severe sentences after an appeal.