West Berlin trial spotlights alleged Syrian terror role

Ahmad Hazi - as well as Syria and Western policy on terrorism - went on trial in West Berlin yesterday. The initial hearing went into recess for several hours after Mr. Hazi shouted that he was ready to die for the Arab cause and tumult broke out in the court. What would otherwise have been a routine trial of suspects in a bombing in which no one was killed is now in the international limelight because of the identity of one of the accused as well as confessions from the suspects that they acted under orders from Syrian officials. Hazi, one of two Jordanian suspects, is the brother of Nezar Hindawi, who was convicted Oct. 29 in Britain of trying to plant a bomb on an El Al airliner last spring.

Throughout the various twists and turns of sanctions debates, Bonn has consistently opposed any far-reaching sanctions. West Germany, along with Britain, was a brake on European Community sanctions on South Africa this fall. And West Germany, along with France, is a brake on EC sanctions on Syria.

Bonn's position has been strengthened by recent revelations that Paris and Washington - despite their declarations of tough policies on state-sponsored terrorism - have both been quietly dealing with Syria and Iran. With these revelations, earlier criticism has faded that West Germany opposes sanctions out of a desire to protect lucrative trade.

Bonn has not warmed to tough actions against Syria and other Mideast governments which it - like Paris - thinks must be persuaded to help reverse the drift toward fanaticism in the Middle East.

But Bonn may be forced into stronger action if the West Berlin court judges the police confessions of the two defendants to be accurate. Both maintain that Syrian officials provided the bomb and set the target. Hazi's companion, Farouk Salameh, confirmed his confession in court yesterday.

According to the confessions, Hazi, Hindawi, and Salameh traveled to Libya last year to seek backing for terrorist acts, but netted a paltry $5,000. They then tried Syria, and as a test were assigned the bombing of the German-Arab Friendship Society in West Berlin. Hazi says he was given the bomb in the Syrian Embassy in East Berlin. When it failed to explode in two attempts, a Syrian expert gave instructions, and the bomb went off on the third attempt, March 29.

The Syrian ambassador in East Germany has denied the allegations.

Hazi is also suspected of participating in the bombing last April of West Berlin's La Belle discoth`eque. In that attack two American soldiers and one Turkish woman were killed and more than 230 were injured.

In domestic policy on terrorism, the Bonn government's effort to legislate a provision for terrorists to turn state's witness in return for leniency or immunity is running into trouble. Most of the law enforcement officials who testified before the parliamentary committee in recent days oppose the idea.

Opposition is also growing within the Free Democratic Party, the ruling conservatives' junior coalition partner that must agree to the law to guarantee a parliamentary majority.

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