Forced to Toss Klinghoffer Body Overboard, 2 Testify

Associated Press

A Portuguese waiter and an Italian hairdresser who were aboard the Achille Lauro testified today that a hijacker forced them to throw overboard the body and then the wheelchair of an elderly American passenger.

The waiter then identified one defendant in court, Youssef Molki, as the gunman who gave them the order.

The testimony came on the fourth day of the trial in the Oct. 7-9 hijacking of the Italian liner and the shooting death of Leon Klinghoffer of New York. The court is trying 15 defendants, three of them accused as hijackers.

Speaking through an interpreter, waiter Manuel De Souza told the court that he was summoned and ordered to bring Klinghoffer, 69, in his wheelchair to the deck.

De Souza said that having done that, he was ordered to go back down to where other hostages were being held.

Minutes later, he testified, he heard shots and then was summoned again, this time to throw Klinghoffer's body into the Mediterranean off Syria.

He said that when he arrived on deck, he saw Klinghoffer, bleeding from a chest wound, already dead.

De Souza and Ferruccio Alberti, the hairdresser, heaved Klinghoffer's body into the sea and then threw the wheelchair overboard, the waiter testified.

He recalled that he then went inside to wash the blood off his clothes.

When asked to identify the man who gave him the orders, De Souza turned around and pointed at Molki in a metal-barred defendants cage.

Alberti said he couldn't be sure which defendant was the one who ordered him to get rid of Klinghoffer's body.

Alberti said he was walking on the deck when a young man with a gun summoned him and forced him to throw the body into the sea.

"I saw this man and the body on the ground, and he gestured to throw him into the water. I was so afraid," Alberti said.

When the judge asked Alberti if he could recognize the hijacker in the courtroom, he shook his head.

"I never looked him in the face," Alberti said. "I only saw the blood on the ground."

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