Wednesday, April 16, 2003

A Clinton Legacy Moment: Will Abu Abbas go free?

Terrorist Abu Abbas, best known for the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro in which a wheelchair bound American was murdered and pushed overboard, has been captured in Iraq. The reaction from the Palestinian Authority?

Gaza City - Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erakat called on Wednesday for the "immediate" release of Palestinian radical chief Abu Abbas, arrested by US forces in Baghdad, saying the arrest violated a 1995 peace accord...

"We ask the US administration for the immediate release of Abu Abbas and for it to respect the 1995 interim agreement between the Palestine Organisation Liberation (PLO) and Israel ... and signed by (former) US president Bill Clinton," Erekat said.

He pointed to one of its clauses that says PLO members cannot be arrested or tried for acts committed before September 1993.

Abbas was tried an convicted in absentia in Itally, so there may be a loophole here. We'll see what happens.

via Damian Penny

UPDATE: According to the BBC:
# "The Israeli supreme court formally declared Abu Abbas immune from prosecution five years ago and allowed him to return to Gaza."
# (Jerusalem :: Simon Wilson :: 0927GMT) "The United States also dropped a warrant for his arrest several years ago but his capture in Iraq is now likely to be used as evidence that Saddam Hussein was supporting terror groups." (Centcom, Qatar :: Dominic Hughes :: 0540GMT )

UPDATE: From the Associated Press:

While out of the limelight for the past decade, Abbas is believed to have continued plying the terror trade from Iraq up to the time of his capture Monday in a raid on the southern outskirts of Baghdad.

Israeli intelligence officials say the PLF faction under Abbas was a conduit for Saddam Hussein's payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Israel reported earlier this year that it captured several Palestinians who trained at a PLF camp in Iraq and were told by Abbas to attack an Israeli airport and other targets.

UPDATE: According to the AP, Abbas will not go free because, "State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the interim accord involves only Israel and the Palestinian Authority. 'The United States is not a party to that or any amnesty arrangements regarding Abul Abbas.'" However, "Officials said their first priority is to determine through interrogation whether Abbas can provide useful intelligence about Iraqi leaders, plots by terrorist groups and the presence of other terrorists who might have been sheltered by Saddam Hussein." Reportedly the U.S. has not decided whether to try him, but Itally is seeking to extradite Abbas, and according to "the Justice Department's top counterterrorism prosecutor in the mid-1980s," Victoria Toensing,"unless prosecutors have better evidence than existed in the 1980s it would be unwise to go forward."

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