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2 Convicted of Berlin Bombing : Judge Declares Syria Responsible for Attack

November 27, 1986|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

WEST BERLIN — Two Jordanians were convicted Wednesday of bombing the headquarters of the German-Arab Friendship Society here, and the presiding judge declared that prosecutors have proved that Syria was behind the attack.

The West Berlin authorities also have issued a warrant for Haytham Saed, identified by the two defendants as a Syrian intelligence officer who gave them the bomb at the Syrian Embassy in East Berlin several days before the crime. The warrant, issued Tuesday, also listed five other names Saed used, including Abu Ahmed.

Despite the evidence of Syrian involvement, the West German government declined comment on what, if any, steps it would take against the Syrian government for its role in the March 29 bombing, which injured nine persons--all Arabs.

Defendant Ahmed Nawaf Mansour Hasi, 35, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his part in the bombing, and Farouk Salameh, 39, was given a 13-year sentence. Both had confessed to the crime in pretrial statements to the police but later recanted some of their statements.

"It was a cowardly, treacherous crime," said Senior Judge Hans-Joachim Heinze. "They must have known people might be killed in the attack. But that did not stop them."

The two men, both Palestinians who hold Jordanian passports, accepted their sentences calmly in a court building surrounded by police officers. An Arabic-speaking interpreter sat with them in the courtroom behind bulletproof glass.

Hasi is the brother of Nezar Hindawi, who was jailed for 45 years by a British court last month for attempting to plant a bomb aboard an El Al Israel Airlines jetliner bound for Tel Aviv. In London, Hindawi had testified that he was recruited by Saed, who was identified during the trial as deputy chief of Syrian air force intelligence.

Hasi said his brother had suggested bombing the German-Arab society because its policies were too moderate; the association had tried to remain neutral in the various disputes in the Middle East.

Salameh said he and Hindawi flew to Damascus where they were treated well by the Syrians and shown an explosive device in a suitcase, similar to the one Hasi later picked up from Saed in the kitchen of the Syrian Embassy in East Berlin. Salameh smuggled the bomb into West Berlin.

The judge found that the bombing was plotted by Saed and by Hindawi, as the prosecution had charged. The judge said he would leave to the "politicians" the question of what to do about West German relations with Syria, but he said he was "persuaded" that the account given in court by the two defendants of their dealings with Syrian officials was true.

Hindawi had also traveled to Libya in July, 1985, to seek financial backing for a terrorist group he hoped to form, the judge said, but he was unsuccessful. "Therefore, he turned to Syria," Heinze said.

Disco Bomb Suspects

West Berlin police have said they also suspect Hasi and Salameh in the April 5 bombing of a West Berlin discotheque--in which two American soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed--but that they lack the evidence to prove the charge. The United States blamed Libya for that bombing, however, and retaliated by bombing the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi on April 15.

The trial was carefully watched by the Bonn government: Britain broke diplomatic relations with Syria after Hindawi's conviction in London, then persuaded the United States and its partners in the European Communities to impose sanctions against the Damascus government. Hindawi had said at his trial that he received help from the Syrian Embassy in London.

But, in Bonn, West German government spokesman Friedhelm Ost said the government will study the written record of the court's verdict before making any decisions concerning Syria.

"There is no point in speculating on what decision will be taken," Ost said. "We will examine the court's written record very carefully."

'Another Situation'

When pressed on whether West Germany would follow Britain's example in responding to Syrian sponsorship of terrorism, Ost said: "That was another situation. Every trial is different."

The Syrian ambassador in East Berlin has denied any involvement by his country in the West Berlin bombing.

The Bonn government has deferred a decision on replacing its ambassador to Syria, who ended his assignment on Nov. 16. The West German newspaper Bild reported Wednesday that the government will respond to the current case by announcing today that it will not replace the ambassador and will reduce the size of its embassy in Damascus.

West Germany joined other European Communities members on Nov. 10 in taking some measures against Syria, proposed by Britain, which included a ban on arms sales, a freeze on high-level visits and a closer monitoring of diplomats from the Middle Eastern nation.

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