Belgium Wants to Try Palestinian Who is Serving Life Term in Austria

Belgium is seeking the extradition of a Palestinian terrorist serving a life sentence here for a fatal attack on Vienna’s Central Synagogue 10 years ago.

The Belgians want to try Hesham Mohammed Rajeh, 32, for the 1981 murder of Naim Khader, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative to the European Community, which is headquartered in Brussels.

Khader, who had openly advocated political compromise with Israel, was gunned down in broad daylight. The killer, chased by two witnesses, escaped.

Rajah, a member of the radical Palestinian terrorist group A1 Assifa, was the prime suspect. The Belgian authorities issued a warrant for his arrest on Dec. 17, 1981.

But by then, he and an accomplice were in custody in Vienna for a Sabbath morning attack on the synagogue the previous August. A jury found them guilty in January 1982 on two counts of murder and 30 counts of attempted murder.

Extradition is possible only if the prisoner becomes eligible for parole. In Rajah’s case, he would have to serve at least 15 years of his life term to qualify.

The Austrian authorities also will want assurances that he will get a stiff sentence in Brussels. On the other hand, the talk at the Justice Ministry is that “we will not be too unhappy to have one less terrorist in our custody.”

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