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Greek Justice Minister Pledges Never to Extradite Palestinian

Justice Minister Fotis Kouvelis promised Tuesday that as long as he holds office, there would be no extradition of a Palestinian wanted in the United States to stand trial for allegedly bombing a Pan American Airways jet over Honolulu in 1982.

Kouvelis, a Communist, offered his pledge to 15 pro-Palestinian activists, who occupied his office at the Justice Ministry while he was briefing the news media.

The intruders, members of the Movement for Political and Social Rights, are championing the cause of Mohammed Rashid, 34, alias Rashid Hamdan, who was arrested at Athens airport in May 1988 for entering the country on a forged Syrian passport.

He has been in jail ever since, pending a decision on the American extradition request, which may be long in coming.

While the Greek Supreme Court ruled last year that Rashid should be extradited, the final decision under Greek law lies with the justice minister.

In May, then Justice Minister Yannis Skoularikis, a member of the Socialist regime of former Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, decided to defer a decision until after the June 18 national elections.

The Socialists were defeated and replaced by a coalition of conservatives and Communist-led alliance of leftist factions.

The new government appears to have shelved Rashid’s case along with two other delicate issues — the future of American military bases in Greece and diplomatic relations with Israel.

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