Put a Price on Caving In to Terrorists
By Victoria Toensing

A bomb explodes on a Pan Am international flight resulting in death.  A man indicted for the bombing by the U.S. Justice Department after a lengthy investigation sits in an Athens jail for almost a year while the Greek government decides whether to extradite him to the United States to stand trial.  Meanwhile, the U.S. government fears that the Greeks, rather than fulfill their treaty obligation to extradite, will provide him a free ride to the country of his choice.

The epilogue to Pan Am Flight 1031 Perhaps, but for now, this is the real-life drama occurring between Greece and the United States over Mohammed Rashid, who is charged with the 1982 bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet carrying 285 passengers and crew from Tokyo to Honolulu.  A plastic explosive device killed a Japanese teenager and injured 15 passengers.

 

The United States reaction, or lack thereof, to the Greeks' ultimate decision regarding Rashid will have a profound effect on the international community's response to the wretched individuals who brought death to 259 people on Pan Am 103 last Christmas week.

 

When I became a deputy assistant attorney general in 1984, one of my first duties was to oversee the investigation of the August, 1982, bombing of Pan Am Flight 830 to Honolulu.  The bomb exploded at 36,000 feet as the plane was flying over international waters preparing for a descent into Hawaii.  Since the crime was committed on an American carrier, U.S. courts had jurisdiction.

 

Sheer luck saved the plane from total destruction.  The bomb was accidentally positioned 80 that the plane's structure withstood the impact.  Toro Ozawa, 16, vacationing with his family, was sitting on top of the device.  The blast ripped open Ozawa's stomach; his horrified family could only watch as he lay bleeding to death.

 

Top U.S. prosecutors and investigators worked for five years to build a case, crisscrossing Europe, Asia and South America studying bomb mechanisms and interviewing witnesses.  Finally, in July, 1987, Rashid was charged in a sealed indictment with murder, assault and aircraft sabotage.

 

Last May, alert U.S. 'officials informed the Greeks that Rashid possessed a forged passport, contrary to Greek law; the Greeks arrested him and were subsequently told by the United States that Rashid was the indicted Pan Am bomber.  We immediately presented an extradition request to Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou's government.  A year has passed, and Rashid has not been extradited.

 

A Greek lower court approved Rashid's extradition.  Earlier this year, the Greek supreme court, consisting of five judges, heard arguments on the U.S. request.  Before the court had ruled, however, terrorists shot three Greek prosecutors and bombed the residence of one of the supreme court judges.  Two of the prosecutors died.  The judge, who was not injured, plus two others resigned from the court.  Three replacement judges were appointed, and this April the new panel heard re­argument.  On May 12, the court rejected Rashid's appeal, thereby affirming the decision to extradite.

 

But that's not the end of the process.  On paper, the final decision rests with the Greek Justice Ministry, which can overrule the supreme court's decision. In practice, it rests with Prime Minister Papandreou if he wins the June elections.

 

The Papandreou government's past performance on terrorist extradition is not promising. In 1988, the Italians asked the Greeks to extradict Abdel Osama al-Zomar, who was charged with bombing a Rome synagogue, killing a 2-year-old child and wounding more than 30 'people, In that case, the' supreme court recommended extradition but was overruled.  The Greek government's response was to give al-Zomar a gift not usually bestowed on respectable law-abiding tourists a free flight to the country of his choice.  Al-Zomar chose Libya.

 

Greece is being held hostage.  More to the point, it is holding itself hostage.  It fears that if it extradites Rashid, it will suffer more terrorism.  All of us sympathize with the past treacherous acts against its prosecutors and judge.  But the solution is not to grant the terrorists' demands.

 

If Greece acquiesces to the terrorists' threats, it will be forever beholden to do whatever else terrorists want, Someday they will demand an act, or nonact, that is not possible.  Greece then will have to suffer the same consequences it strives to put off today.  Terrorism postponed is just as deadly.  Far better to say "no" today than to build expectations of always giving in.

 

The U.S. government's reaction to Greece's decision on Rashid is crucial for our terrorism policy.  A judgment to extradict should be met with strong public accolades. A pu­sillanimous decision against extradition - which would also violate Greek treaty obligations to us - cannot be met with silence or even a behind-the­scenes reprimand.

Congress is considering resolutions strongly supporting the extradition request.  Both houses must pass these swiftly and unanimously.

If there is a decision not to extradite, the executive branch must assert its foreign policy responsibilities.  It must not only publicly denounce Greece but also impose sanctions that hurt, really hurt.

The United States should issue a travel advisory warning American tourists to avoid Greece because travel there is dangerous.  We should also strongly oppose Greece hosting the 1996 Olympics.

 

For if a nation's policy is to cave in to terrorists' demands, then it is no longer a place where tourists or athletes are safe.  And countries should know that giving in to terrorists has consequences that hurt as much as not giving in.  If the United States does not stand firm on Rashid's extradition, it will not have the leverage to get the bombers of Pan Am 103 if they, like Rashid, are found outside our territory.

 

 

 

 

©2005 diGenova & Toensing, LLP
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