ATHENS (Jan. 31)
A Palestinian suspect in an American airplane bombing eight years ago has accused the “Zionist lobby” in the United States of forcing the U.S. administration to demand his extradition from Greece.
According to Mohammed Rashid, who claims his surname is actually Hamdan, the Zionists want to use him to counteract the bad publicity Israel has been getting from the intifada.
Rashid was arrested at Athens airport on May 30, 1988, and charged with carrying a false passport.
He expressed his views in a three-page interview published Sunday in the newspaper Eleftherotypia. It was the first interview he has granted since his arrest.
Rashid was responding in theory to questions submitted in writing in November. But his answers avoided their substance, reading more like propaganda from the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Observers are convinced they were written by Rashid’s lawyers, inasmuch as the prisoner can read, write and speak only Arabic.
Rashid is wanted in the United States, in connection with the 1982 bombing of a Pan American airliner over Honolulu. He claims he is the victim of mistaken identity and that he was framed by authorities.
Many here following the case, including some objective journalists, are not entirely convinced the Americans have the right man. Nevertheless, the Greek Supreme Court decided on May 12, 1989, that Rashid could be extradited to the United States.
But under Greek law, extradition orders must be approved by the justice minister. This has not been done, mainly because of the political instability in Greece.
The last three justice ministers, one of whom was murdered for political motives, have postponed a decision. The present incumbent has put off a decision until September.
The case has more than domestic ramifications. The Americans have hinted publicly and privately that future U.S.-Greek relations could hinge on Rashid’s extradition.