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Greece Sentences Palestinian, Postponing Extradition to U.S.

A Greek court sentenced a suspected Palestinian terrorist to eight months in prison Tuesday, and in doing so frustrated the U.S. government’s request for his immediate extradition.

Mohammed Rashid, who was arrested at Athens airport last May and convicted of carrying a forged Syrian passport, is believed by the United States to have been involved in the bombing of a Pan American flight over Hawaii in 1982. A 16-year-old Japanese youth was killed and 45 other passengers were wounded in that incident.

The Greek move Tuesday ensures that no extradition proceedings will take place until Rashid’s eight-month sentence is served. The extradition petition will then be taken up by the Greek Supreme Court.

Rashid has been in jail while the Greek Supreme Court reviewed a lower court’s decision on the U.S. extradition request.

Last month, during a check, prison guards found two homemade blades in his cell. A lower court acquitted Rashid of charges he was plotting an escape, but the public prosecutor appealed against the acquittal.

The three-member appeals court in Piraeus sentenced Rashid to eight months for possession of the weapons, but gave him the option of buying off his sentence at 400 drachmas ($2.18) per day.

His lawyer said he would appeal for a retrial to the Supreme Court.

RESEMBLANCE TO ZOMAR CASE

The case bears striking resemblance to that of Abdel Osama al-Zomar, who is believed responsible for the 1982 machine-gun attack on Rome’s main synagogue that killed a 3-year-old boy and left 35 wounded.

In December, Greek Justice Minister Vassillis Rotis refused to comply with a Greek Supreme Court decision authorizing the extradition of Zomar to Italy.

Zomar, who was released from prison after serving 2 months of a two-year sentence, was allowed to go to Libya.

The head of the Greek Jewish community, Joseph Lovinger, had called for world ostracism of Vassillis in a World Jewish Congress meeting in January, because the justice minister called Zomar a “freedom fighter.”

In New York, the WJC said, “If another Zomar incident were to occur in this case, it would have serious repercussions.”

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Wednesday that “the government of Greece knows that we consider its actions in the Rashid case to be a key indicator of its willingness to cooperate in countering terrorism.”

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