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Page last updated at 23:39 GMT, Monday, 7 July 2008 00:39 UK

Achille Lauro hijacker released

The Achille Lauro, pictured in 1985
Four Palestinian militants were jailed over the hijack

One of the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro has been set free, after spending more than two decades in jail in Italy.

Ibrahim Fatayer Abdelatif, 43, was one of a group of Palestinian militants who attacked the ship in 1985. A disabled US tourist was shot dead in the hijack.

The authorities have ordered Ibrahim, born in Lebanon, to leave Italy - but his lawyer says he has nowhere to go.

Analysts say Ibrahim is now in a state of legal limbo.

Although officially expelled, he cannot leave Italy until he finds another country willing to accept him.

He was born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, but he does not have Lebanese citizenship.

His lawyer, Francesco Romeo, told the Associated Press that Lebanon had already refused him entry and Italy had refused a request for political asylum.

The BBC's David Willey, in Rome, says Ibrahim's predicament as a "stateless person" is similar to hundreds of foreign-born criminals in Italy.

Abdelatif will remain perpetually subject to arrest if he remains in Italy, our correspondent adds.

Splinter group

He was the youngest of the hijackers convicted of attacking the Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean on 7 October 1985.

They were members of the Palestinian Liberation Front, a splinter group of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Liberation Organisation.

During a two-day standoff, the group demanded the release of a number of Palestinian prisoners.

One of the hijackers shot and killed US tourist Leon Klinghoffer - a 69-year-old who was in wheelchair - before throwing him overboard.

An Italian court jailed Ibrahim for 25 years for his part in the hijack. Three others also received lengthy jail terms.

The mastermind of the operation, Abu Abbas, was convicted in abstentia but never spent time in prison in Italy. He died in US custody after being captured in Iraq in 2004.


SEE ALSO
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10 Mar 04 |  Middle East

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