Italian Judge Dismisses Charges Linking Arafat to Arms Smuggling

Citing lack of evidence, a Venice magistrate has dismissed charges that Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat was involved in smuggling weapons to terrorist groups in Italy 10 years ago.

But Judge Carlo Mastelloni ordered 19 people to stand trial in the case, among them Al Fatah security chief Salah Khalaf, who will be tried in absentia.

Fatah is the fighting arm of the PLO controlled by Arafat.

Khalaf and his co-defendants are charged with illegally importing weapons, forming an armed band, giving false testimony, and aiding and abetting the operation.

The accused include Italian security personnel charged with covering up the smuggling.

The case dates back to 1983, when an investigation was launched after police uncovered a cache of weapons and explosives while rescuing a kidnapped American military attache, Gen. James Dozier.

The investigation indicated that the arsenal was transported from Lebanon to Venice in 1979 by Red Brigades leader Mario Moretti and other terrorists in a sailing vessel, the Papago.

Antonio Savasta, a former Red Brigades member who turned state’s evidence, said the weapons were supplied by the PLO and were distributed among various terrorist organizations in Europe.

Savasta claimed Arafat was involved.

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