The Italian government will seek to have Palestine Liberation Front leader Mohammed Abbas extradited there for prosecution if its investigation finds he was involved in the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, ABC News reported yesterday.
The report, aired on "This Week With David Brinkley," was based on an interview with Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Andreotti by ABC correspondent Pierre Salinger.
Meanwhile, Shafiq Hout, the Palestine Liberation Organization's representative to Lebanon, called the hijacking by members of the PLO splinter group "an act of terror" and said Abbas, released by Italian authorities and now sought as a fugitive by the United States, should be punished if he participated in the piracy.
The PLO representative, interviewed on NBC's "Meet the Press," said he does not know the whereabouts of Abbas. "But I feel that as a member of our [PLO] Parliament, . . . Mr. Abbas should be subject for investigation, and if it's proved that he has a linkage with what has happened, we should dismiss him [from the PLO]."
Abbas was aboard the Egyptian airliner carrying the four hijackers of the Achille Lauro when U.S. Navy planes forced it to land in Sicily. The four hijackers were held for trial by the Italian government, which released Abbas because it said the evidence against him was insufficient to prosecute him. The United States disagreed, calling the Italian action "incomprehensible."
Hout, speaking from New York where he is visiting the United Nations, was asked why the PLO viewed the cruise ship hijacking, during which one American was slain, as a terrorist act when it had praised other such incidents. "I believe this whole episode was counterproductive," he said. "It is a violation of international law, and inflicted harm on the Palestinian cause and the PLO."