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No Proof of Iraq's Links With Terrorism
The Independent, Apr. 17, 2003
"The U.S. forces in Iraq have only themselves to blame if they have looked foolish in trumpeting their capture of the Palestinian militant, Abu Abbas. His presence in Baghdad was hardly a secret, nor does anyone regard him as much of a menace any more. His capture is neither a great coup in the war against terror nor proof of Saddam Hussein's links with terrorism. Yet that Abu Abbas was a terrorist, and a peculiarly nasty one in his day, cannot be denied. The leader of a small faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (P.L.O.), he was found guilty in absentia for hijacking an Italian cruise ship in 1985 and killing one of its passengers, the disabled New Yorker Leon Klinghoffer. True, he later recanted his crime and was even allowed to pass through Israeli checkpoints on a visit to Gaza under an amnesty agreed as part of the Oslo peace accords."
"But what passes between the Palestinians and the Israelis hardly affects a crime committed on an Italian ship for which the perpetrator has been sentenced to five life terms. The Palestinians say he should be released on the grounds that members of the P.L.O. should not be detained or tried for matters committed before the Oslo peace accords. As that agreement was signed by President Bill Clinton among others, the U.S. has no right to detain Abu Abbas."
"The Italians say that the sentence passed by their courts still stands and Abu Abbas must be extradited. And on this they are right. Terrorist crimes such as hijacking are a menace to the whole international community. If nothing else, the world came solidly behind the U.S. on this issue after Sep. 11. America may still have to prove its case for saying that President Saddam was promoting terrorism when the Allies chose to invade Iraq. The 17-year residence of an ageing figure from the past such as Abu Abbas in Baghdad proves nothing. However, a terrorist killer he was, and he should be returned to Italy to serve his sentence."