Price on Caving In to Terrorists
By Victoria Toensing
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
is considering resolutions strongly supporting the extradition request.
Both houses must pass these swiftly and unanimously.
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.
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.