Prosecutors want new warrants in 28-year-old cruise ship terror case
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French prosecutors have called for 30-year prison terms to be passed on three alleged members of the Palestinian Abu Nidal group, in connection with the murder of nine tourists on a cruise ship in 1988. But the accused were not in the dock and it is not certain who they are or whether they are alive.
Nine people, including three French citizens, were killed when a gunman opened fire on the City of Poros as the Greek cruise ship pulled into Athens in July 1988. He also threw a grenade and another explosive device, causing fire to break out.
As well as the maximum sentence, the prosecutors want new arrest warrants issued against three people who have been subject to international warrants since 1992:
- Gunman Adnan Sojod, aged between 20 and 25 years at the time, about whom little is known apart from the fact that he had a Lebanese passport;
- Alleged accomplice Abdul Hamid Amoud, who may have been one of two people who died when a car carrying explosives blew up in the Athens port, Piraeus, the day before the shooting;
- Samir Mohamed Ahmed Khaidir, alias Jaballa, alias Raphael or Rouphael, who was born in Nablus, now in the West Bank, in 1951 and was believed to have planned the attack from Sweden.
The French victims were 22-year-old student Laurent Vigneron and fellow student Annie Audejean, who were about to become engaged, and 21-year-old secretary Isabelle Bismuth.
Greek police at the time accused Vigneron and Bismuth of being accomplices, because they had befriended the gunman and Bismuth had been photographed playing cards with him.
French investigators became convinced that the attack was the work of the armed Palestinian group Fatah–The Revolutionary Council, known as the Abu Nidal Organisation after its founder and leader.
Abu Nidal led one of the factions that split from Yasser Arafat’s Fatah and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation in opposition to peace deals with Israel. He died from gunshot wounds in Baghdad in 2002.
Kaidir was the group’s chief of foreign intelligence and “organised the attack from A to Z”, French secret service Inspector General Michel Guérin told the court.
French spies “completely lost track of him” after the City of Poros killing, Guérin said, but were later told that he had gone into hiding in Libya and killed in a purge ordered by Abu Nidal.
But, he added, that he had “no proof of his death”.
French police have suggested that the attack was intended to persuade Greece not to agree to the extradition to Italy of one if its members and that the Greek authorities accused igneron and Bismuth of complicity to conceal the government George Papandreou’s contacts with Palestinian groups.
On Wednesday the mothers of the victims, now aged 70, 72 and 74, testified to the court.
“My husband isn’t here. He had a panic attack,” said Bismuth’s mother Simone, who broke down in tears when she recalling that a TV news bulletin had broadcast the accusation that he daughter was “a terrorist”.