The federal judge presiding over the hijacking case of alleged Lebanese terrorist Fawaz Younis on Tuesday threw out a written confession and all other statements Younis made to FBI agents shortly after his arrest, ruling that during their "relentless questioning" the agents had violated his constitutional rights.
"These constitutional principles should not be cast aside nor minimized merely by invoking 'national security' or 'the fight against terrorism,' " U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker said.
Parker's strongly worded 47-page opinion repeatedly rebuked FBI officials for the way Younis was treated after he was arrested last September in international waters off Cyprus.
Not Advised of Rights
Parker said Younis was not properly advised of his rights in a way he could understand, did not receive adequate medical treatment for the broken wrists he sustained while being arrested, was questioned for more than nine hours without the knowledge or approval of doctors treating him for seasickness and was not provided an attorney during questioning.
Parker was especially critical of the delay between Younis' arrest and his arraignment here before U.S. Magistrate Jean F. Dwyer, ruling that it "appeared to serve only the government's purposes--ample time to educe a confession."
An FBI spokesman Tuesday said the bureau would not comment on Parker's ruling or Younis' arrest on Sept. 13.
Younis, 28, was arrested in connection with the 1985 hijacking of a Royal Jordanian jetliner from Beirut International Airport. The plane was blown up after passengers and crew were taken off.
Younis, at the time of the hijacking a member of the Amal militia, was arrested at sea after he was lured by a former associate onto an FBI-operated yacht with promises of a lucrative drug deal.
Arrest Was Described
The FBI operation was planned and carried out under the direct supervision of Oliver B. Revell, the bureau's executive assistant director of investigation. Parker based his opinion on a description of the arrest provided by Revell during earlier testimony but did not name Revell in his criticisms.
It was unclear Tuesday if Parker's ruling will delay Younis' trial, set for March 22. The government, which has a wealth of other evidence that Younis was the ringleader of the hijackers, can appeal Parker's decision only if prosecutors can show that exclusion of the statements and confession cripples their case.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office said prosecutors and Justice Department officials are reviewing the ruling.
Francis D. Carter, Younis' court-appointed attorney, said that in "15 years of practicing law, this case had the strongest factual basis for the suppression of statements. I'm glad the court recognized all the appropriate elements." But Carter said he was disappointed that Parker denied his request to dismiss the indictment.
In his ruling, Parker said Younis' wrists were broken as a result of the "aggressive and forceful arrest" by FBI agents, who threw him to the yacht's deck after he was lured on board.