NICOSIA, Cyprus — A Briton and two Palestinians were convicted Friday of murdering three Israelis aboard a yacht in a Cyprus marina last September, and sentenced to life in prison.
Briton Ian Michael Davison and Palestinians Khaled Abdel Kader Khatib and Abdel Hakim Saado Khalifa stood silent and grim-faced as Judge Yannakis Poyadjis read the sentence. Earlier they had vowed to fight on and proclaimed, "Revolution till victory."
Poyadjis said that because the three were found guilty of premeditated murder, "the only sentence I can pass is life imprisonment for each of the three accused." Cyprus does not impose a death penalty.
But the three, dressed in red sweatshirts and faded blue jeans, later waved and smiled to photographers as they were returned to jail after hearing the verdict of a three-judge panel.
Elite PLO Unit
Israel claimed the gunmen were members of an elite Palestine Liberation Organization unit called Force 17, and retaliated for the slayings with an Oct. 1 air attack on PLO headquarters in Tunisia that killed more than 70 people. However, PLO officials in Cyprus denied that the gunmen were members of Force 17.
The three defendants had admitted they killed Reuven Palzur, 53, his wife, Esther, 50, and Abraham Avnery, 55, on their yacht moored in Larnaca on Sept. 25. They refused to plead guilty, however, claiming they acted out of "moral duty." Khatib maintained during the trial that he and his companions killed the Israelis "because they ran a spy ring in Cyprus and were responsible for the arrest of many of our comrades as well as the murder of many women and children."
Davison, 27, a carpenter from Southshields in the north of England; Khatib, who carried a Syrian passport; and Khalifa, who carried a Jordanian passport, all made brief statements to the court before sentencing.
Khatib said he had promised "our Palestinian heroes that I will continue the struggle." Khalifa said, "Our cause is just."
Davison said: "Even if I am sentenced to 100 years, I am not interested, as my freedom is in my heart and in my conscience. Everyone must struggle for Palestinian rights and revolution till victory."
Later, talking to reporters, Davison said he had "no regrets at all and would do it again tomorrow.