Hijacking Leader Gets

Three Life Sentences

The leader of a group of Palestinian terrorists who took over a Pan Am jet and killed 22 people was sentenced to life in prison yesterday, capping an emotional two-day hearing in which survivors recounted their trauma from the 1986 hijacking attempt.

Zayd Hassan Safarini was sentenced to three consecutive life terms plus 25 years on 95 charges of murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to attempt murder as part of a plea agreement approved yesterday in U.S. District Court.

District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said he would recommend to the Bureau of Prisons that Safarini never be paroled and that he be sent to a super-maximum security prison in Florence, Colo. The inmates there include Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

"You are a coward and cold-blooded murderer," Sullivan told Safarini. "I think this sentence is better than what [you] deserve. But for the court to reject it, would be arbitrariness. . . . That's the maximum allowable sentence."

Earlier in the hearing, Safarini read a five-minute apology to more than 50 survivors and victims' relatives who attended the hearing. Safarini, a Jordanian, told the court he was "brainwashed" into doing horrible actions, believing it would promote the Palestinian cause.

"I know their suffering is going to continue for the rest of their life, and I want them to know that all their pain, I take responsibility," he said.

* BOSTON -- U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro rejected a last-minute bid by conservative groups to block the nation's first state-sanctioned same-sex marriages from taking place in Massachusetts next week. Tauro said the state's high court acted within its authority in interpreting the Massachusetts Constitution. The plaintiffs immediately announced they would take their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit.

* UNION POINT, Ga. -- The mayor of this small town committed suicide hours before a grand jury was to hear fraud charges against him that could have sent him to prison for life. Mayor Ben Stewart called the Union Point police chief at 4:30 a.m. "and told him to come get him -- he was going to take his life," Greene County Sheriff Chris Houston said. By the time officers arrived, Stewart, 54, had shot himself in the head with a .38-caliber handgun but was still alive. He died at the hospital.

* ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Omali Yeshitela, the leader of a black socialist group, called for Mayor Rick Baker to settle a lawsuit with the family of a black motorist fatally shot by a police officer in 1996. The comments came hours after police quelled a riot in the same neighborhood where the shooting of TyRon Lewis occurred, and as the trial for his family's lawsuit neared its end. Baker said the city is continuing to have discussions about settling the lawsuit.

* A spring storm featuring tornados, heavy snow and rain tore through eastern Colorado and Kansas, damaging property and shutting down schools and roads.

* BOISE, Idaho -- U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge handed a major blow to a Saudi student accused of terrorism, allowing jurors to see inflammatory Web sites that allegedly had been posted from his home computer. The government contends the Web sites prove that Sami Omar Hussayen, a computer science graduate student at the University of Idaho, used his computer skills to foster terrorism.

* ENTERPRISE, Ala. -- The last known living widow of a Civil War veteran suffered a heart attack and is unable to talk, her caretaker said. Alberta Martin, 97, has been in Enterprise Medical Center since suffering taking ill May 7. Martin was a 21-year-old widow with a young son when she married William Jasper Martin, 82, a former Confederate Army private, in 1927. They were married nearly five years and had a son before the veteran died in 1932.

-- From News Services