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Cruise ship crisis: The Achille Lauro

In the name of Leon Klinghoffer, many Americans call for a settling of scores. Klinghoffer was a partially paralyzed 69-year-old American in a wheelchair. He seemed an unlikely hostage to target aboard the seajacked Achille Lauro Mediterranean cruise ship. But Klinghoffer was shot and thrown overboard after quarrelling with Palestine Liberation Front terrorists who had seized control of the ship. After two days of negotiations, the seajackers abandoned the ship and surrendered to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But en route to Tunisia, American fighter jets intercepted the seajackers' plane and forced it to land in Italy. Italian authorities subsequently arrested the accused terrorists. At a press conference, a steely and steadfast Ronald Reagan advises, "You can run but you can't hide."
Canadians are of mixed opinion about the American intervention as reflected in this Cross Country Checkup excerpt. Some callers applaud the Americans for taking decisive action but others criticize President Reagan's "cowboy hero" lack of diplomacy.
• In celebration of their 36th wedding anniversary, Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer invited nine friends to travel with them aboard the Achille Lauro. After Leon Klinghoffer's death, his daughters Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer argued that their father's killing was not a political act but rather a punishable crime.

• In 1997, a lawsuit filed by the Klinghoffer family against the Palestine Liberation Organization was settled out of court. The PLO denied responsibility, indicating that the seajacking was executed by a renegade faction. It nonetheless agreed to pay an undisclosed sum. Ilsa and Lisa Klinghoffer used the settlement to open the Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation of the Anti-Defamation League. The institution aims to fight terrorism through legal, political and educational avenues.

• In 1998 Abu Abbas, the alleged mastermind behind the PLF hijacking, told the Boston Globe why Klinghoffer was murdered. "He created troubles. He was handicapped but he was inciting and provoking the other passengers. So, the decision was made to kill him."

• Abu Abbas was aboard the intercepted airplane but was not arrested. Americans expressed outrage over his release. Abbas lived in Baghdad, Iraq under the protection of Saddam Hussein's government until he was captured by American forces on April 16, 2003. He died of natural causes on March 9, 2004.

• In July 1986 an Italian court convicted 11 men in the Achille Lauro terrorist attack.
• The Achille Lauro continued as a passenger ship until 1994 when it caught fire and sank off the coast of Somalia.

• In 1991, a John Adams opera titled The Death of Klinghoffer debuted in Belgium. The opera opened in the United States in the same year and was criticized for appearing sympathetic to the Palestinian terrorists. At the same time, others maintained that Leon Klinghoffer had been unfairly portrayed as the hero in an obvious Zionist plot. The Los Angeles Opera, who had co-commissioned the work, cancelled plans to mount the piece. In 2003, director Penny Woolcock adapted the opera into a film of the same name.
Medium: Radio
Program: Cross Country Checkup
Broadcast Date: Oct. 13, 1985
Host: Paul Soles
Duration: 7:51

Last updated: June 24, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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