NEW YORK (Jun. 12)
The daughters of Leon Klinghoffer are enraged at an Italian court’s decision this week to grant conditional parole to one of the Palestinians implicated in the hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro.
Klinghoffer, an elderly Jewish man confined to a wheelchair, was shot and thrown overboard by terrorists during the October 1985 hijacking. His body washed up on the shore of Syria and was turned over to the United States.
At a meeting of the Anti-Defamation League held here Wednesday, Klinghoffer’s daughters, Lisa and Ilsa, issued a statement strongly criticizing Monday’s decision by a court in Genoa to grant conditional liberty to Bassam al-Ashker, now 23.
Ashker, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was identified after the hijacking by Klinghoffer’s late widow, Marilyn, and sentenced by a juvenile court in December 1986 to serve 16 years and three months in prison.
As a result of the parole, he is to live with the prison chaplain in a nearby Catholic sanctuary and is to work at the Genoa office of the Red Cross, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
Magid al-Mulqi, the Palestinian who shot Klinghoffer and ordered his body dumped overboard, was given a 30-year prison sentence. However, neither he nor any other defendants were convicted of murder.
The Klinghoffer daughters were angered upon learning of Ashker’s conditional liberty. Noting that he had served just one-third of his sentence, they said his release is a “miscarriage of justice,” even given the conditions under which he has been granted parole.
“Community service may be appropriate for such a terrorist while in prison, but it is no substitute for prison,” they said in the statement.
AWARD TO U.S. ARMED FORCES
The Klinghoffer daughters were attending the ADL’s 78th annual National Commission meeting here to present the league’s Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Foundation Award to the U.S. Armed Forces for their role in combatting terrorism through their victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. Accepting the award was Pete Williams, assistant secretary of defense for public affairs.
Ashker is the third Achille Lauro hijacker to be granted a pardon by Italy this year. In January, two of the terrorists serving prison sentences for their part in the hijacking were released and expelled from Italy.
Mohammed Issa Abbas, who provided weapons to the hijackers, and Yusuf Sa’ad, who served as paymaster, had their sentences commuted. They were believed to have headed for Algeria.
Abbas is a cousin of Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, who masterminded the hijacking and heads the Palestine Liberation Front, a radical faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
His right-hand man, Abdulrahim Khaled, was arrested in Athens in March for an unrelated crime and is now in a Greek prison awaiting trial. Italy has requested Khaled’s extradition to stand trial there.
The Klinghoffer daughters and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman sent a letter Wednesday to Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti expressing displeasure over Ashker’s parole. In March, the daughters sent a telegram petitioning the Italian government to extradite Khaled.