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Court Acquits 14 Tied to PLO Arms

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A court in Venice on Friday acquitted all 14 defendants in a case involving alleged arms traffic between the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Italian Red Brigades.

The verdict, which the Italian news media called “surprising,” ended an investigation and trial that began more than seven years ago.

One of the accused freed by the court is Abu Iyad, a close aide to PLO chief Yasir Arafat, for whom the prosecution had asked a 16-year prison term.

The others acquitted included members of the Italian secret police, accused of participating in a coverup, and sympathizers of the Red Brigades, an guerrilla group active in the 1970s, who allegedly arranged the contacts with the PLO.

The case arose from a cargo of machine guns, explosives and other weapons Red Brigades leader Mario Moretti allegedly smuggled to Italy from the Middle East in 1979.

The machine guns were found to have been sold to Tunisia by an English firm in the 1960s and then passed to Al Fatah, the wing of the PLO controlled directly by Arafat.

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