NEW YORK (Jul. 13)
The daughters of slain Achille Lauro cruise ship passenger Leon Klinghoffer expressed outrage here at what they termed the lenient sentence handed down in an Italian court last week to the confessed murderer of their 69-year-old father.
At the same time, the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Labor Committee assailed the court’s lenient sentencing of Magied Al-Mulqi, a 23-year-old Palestinian, to 30 years in prison for the murder of Klinghoffer, a New York Jewish businessman, during the ship’s hijacking in October.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Genoa this weekend filed an appeal against the sentence, which fell short of the recommendations of the State Prosecutor at the trial. Ten of the Achille Lauro hijackers were given sentences ranging from life to six months. One defendant, a minor, will be tried separately by a juvenile court. Four others were acquitted.
In another development, the U.S. Embassy in Paris expressed “surprise” at what it termed the lightness of last Thursday’s sentencing to four years in prison of Georges Ibrahim Abdullah, a Lebanese suspected of having masterminded the murders of an Israeli diplomat and an American military attache in Paris four years ago. The sentence was handed down by a Lyon criminal court.
Abdullah was tried for illegal possession of fire arms and possession of forged passports, relatively minor charges. He has been linked with the murders of Israeli diplomat Yaacov Bar Simantov, who was gunned down outside his Paris apartment house in April 1982, and of Lt. Col. Charles Ray, Deputy Military Attache of the U.S. Embassy, murdered on January 18, 1982.
FRANCE ANGERED BY U.S. STATEMENT
The Embassy statement, described as somewhat unusual in that it commented critically on French court proceedings, said, “Although Abdullah was not on trial for murder in Lyon, he is associated with a group that has killed or tried to kill several U.S. diplomats.”
The statement added that the sentence was “lighter” than those of similar cases in other European countries. “Moreover, according to press reports the prosecutor referred to Abdullah as political. Terrorists should not be allowed to hide behind political labels,” the statement said.
The French Foreign Minister, meanwhile, reportedly summoned the American Charge d’ Affaires, William Barraclough, to reject the Embassy statement as “unacceptable.” The Foreign Minister, Jean-Bernard Raimond, said, “This statement represents a grave misunderstanding of the principle of the independence of justice and constitutes a regrettable interference in French affairs.”
The Klinghoffer daughters, Ilsa, 28, and Lisa, 35, held a news conference in New York last Thursday to express their outrage at the court’s sentence of their father’s murderer. They also called on President Reagan to extradite the Palestinian terrorists convicted of the hijacking to the United States to stand trial here for murder.
“An opportunity has been lost to deliver a clear message to terrorists everywhere that barbaric, criminal acts in the guise of political activism will no longer be tolerated,” Ilsa Klinghoffer said.
Lisa Klinghoffer added, “It is not over yet. We call on our President to deliver that message. His courageous initiative in attempting to capture these men and bring them to trial in the U.S. must now be pursued through extradition.” The two sisters indicated they were considering appealing the Italian verdicts to seek maximum sentences for all 15 defendants in addition to seeking extradition.
The AJC, in a statement issued by Phil Baum, AJC associate executive director, assailed the court’s failure to impose maximum sentences on all the defendants, and accused the court of reflecting an Italian government policy of appeasing Yasir Arafat and Palestine Liberation Organization terrorists.
“The court’s explanation of its disgraceful decision only compounds the harm,” said Baum. “In accepting defense arguments that the terrorists were ‘soldiers fighting for their ideas’ who had ‘grown up in the tragic conditions that the Palestinian people live through’ as an extenuating circumstance, the court in effect granted a moral license to any and all terrorists to kill innocent civilians.”
The Jewish Labor Committee’s president Herb Magidson, in a statement, said: “This confessed murderer (Al-Mulqi) should have been convicted of premeditated murder and should have been sentenced to life imprisonment — but wasn’t. This unconscionable verdict follows on the heels of a trial in which the murderous actions of the accused were legitimized as ‘political crimes.’ The appeasement of terrorists by European democracies were epitomized by the trial and by (Thursday’s) verdict.”