A Briton and two Palestinians were convicted today of murdering three Israelis aboard a yacht in a Cyprus marina last September and were sentenced to life in prison.
The defendants, Briton Ian Michael Davison and Palestinians Khaled Abdel Kader Khatib and Abdel Hakim Saado Khalifa, stood silent and grim-faced as Judge Yannakis Poyadjis pronounced the life sentences. Cyprus does not impose a death penalty.
The three, dressed in red sweat shirts 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.
Later, Davison told reporters he had “no regrets at all and would do it again tomorrow. . . . I feel happy about what I did.”
“The Israelis have been killing Palestinians for years and nobody is thinking about that,” he said.
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.
The defendants had acknowledged that they killed Reuven Palzur, 53, his wife, Esther, 50, and Abraham Avnery, 55, after commandeering their moored yacht in Larnaca on Sept. 25.
They refused to plead guilty, however, claiming that they acted out of “moral duty.” Khatib said at the trial that they 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.”
Under Cypriot law, the three could be paroled in 10 to 15 years for good behavior.
Davison, 27, of 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. Each ended his comments with the words, “Revolution till victory.”
Esther Palzur was shot dead when she tried to escape moments after the gunmen seized the yacht.
The gunmen demanded the release of Palestinians held in Israel in return for the freedom of the two Israeli men held aboard. After the gunmen surrendered, the bodies of Palzur and Avnery were found below deck, bound and shot in the back of the head.
Israel has maintained that the three Israelis were tourists. But Khatib said one of them was a member of the Israeli secret service, responsible for the murder of Ali Hassan Salama, the chief of Palestinian intelligence in Beirut in 1978. Salama was believed to have masterminded the Munich Olympics massacre in 1972.