Wednesday, November 14, 2001

BERLIN A Berlin court convicted four persons in a 1986 disco bombing that killed two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman, but the judge said the U.S. charge that Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi was responsible was not proven because American and German authorities refused to give prosecutors enough evidence.
The court said the bombing was planned by members of the Libyan secret service and workers at the Libyan Embassy in then-East Berlin. But Judge Peter Marhofer said prosecutors failed to prove Col. Gadhafi ordered the attack because of the refusal of the German and U.S. secret services to provide evidence.
Judge Marhofer said “the limited willingness” of the German and U.S. governments to share intelligence was one of the disappointments of the trial.
The court said four defendants plotted the attack but found only Verena Chanaa, a 42-year-old German, guilty of murder. She was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
Yassir Chraidi, a 42-year-old Palestinian accused of being the main organizer, was convicted of multiple counts of attempted murder and as an accessory to murder, as were Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, 44, a Libyan, and a Lebanese-born German, Ali Chanaa, 42. Chraidi was sentenced to 14 years; Eter and Ali Chanaa, who is Verena Chanaa’s ex-husband, to 12 years each.
Prosecutors had sought life sentences for all four and began an appeal.
A fifth defendant, Verena Chanaa’s sister, Andrea Haeusler, 36, was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The April 5, 1986, explosion at the La Belle disco killed Sgt. Kenneth T. Ford, 21, and Nermin Hannay, a 29-year-old Turkish woman, immediately. Sgt. James E. Goins, 25, died later of his injuries, and 229 persons were wounded.
The United States blamed Libya and launched retaliatory air strikes on two cities there. But after years of investigations and often murky testimony, the four-year trial became a lesson in the difficulty of trying to prove terrorist ties especially more than a decade after the events.
Prosecutors hoped the trial would prove Col. Gadhafi ordered the attack in an act of state-sponsored terrorism.
Chief prosecutor Detlev Mehlis argued that proving his charge of Libyan “state terrorism” would strengthen the signal sent by the U.S. war on terrorism in the wake of the September 11 attacks that its sponsors will not go unpunished.
The Libyan Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the verdict, saying it had not received official information from its Berlin embassy.

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