Thursday, 19 November 2015

The La Belle disco bombing

[On this date in 1997, the trial of five persons for the bombing of the La Belle disco opened in Berlin. What follows is excerpted from the Wikipedia article 1986 Berlin discotheque bombing:]

On April 5, 1986 three people were killed and around 230 injured when La Belle discothèque was bombed in West Berlin. The entertainment venue was commonly frequented by United States soldiers, and two of the dead and 79 of the injured were American servicemen.

A bomb placed under a table near the disk jockey's booth exploded at 1:45 am CET instantly killing Nermin Hannay, a Turkish woman, and US sergeant Kenneth T Ford. A second American sergeant, James E Goins, died from his injuries two months later. Some of the victims were left permanently disabled due to the injuries caused by the explosion.

Libya was accused of sponsoring the bombing by the US government, and US President Ronald Reagan ordered retaliatory strikes on Tripoli and Benghazi in Libya ten days later. The strikes reportedly killed 15-30 people, including Colonel Gaddafi's adopted daughter, and were condemned by the United Nations General Assembly.

A 2001 trial in the US found that the bombing had been "planned by the Libyan secret service and the Libyan Embassy.” (...) 

In spite of reports blaming Libya for the attack on the nightclub, no individual was officially accused of the bombing until the 1990 reunification of Germany and the subsequent opening up of the Stasi archives. Stasi files led German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis to Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, a Libyan who had worked at the Libyan embassy in East Berlin. Stasi files listed him as an agent, and Mehlis said he was the Libyan spy agency's main contact at the embassy.

Eter and four other suspects were arrested in 1996 in Lebanon, Italy, Greece and Berlin, and put on trial a year later. In 2001 Musbah Abdulghasem Eter, and two Palestinians, Yasser Mohammed Chreidi (or Yassar Al-Shuraidi or Yassir Chraidi) and Ali Chanaa were convicted in Berlin's Landgericht of aiding in murder, and Chanaa's former German wife, Mrs Verena Chanaa, was convicted of murder. They were given sentences of 12 to 14 years in prison.

Prosecutor Mehlis proved beyond reasonable doubt that the three men had assembled the bomb in the Chanaas' flat. The explosive was said to have been brought into West Berlin in a Libyan diplomatic bag. Verena Chanaa and her sister, Andrea Häusler, carried it into the La Belle in a travel bag and left five minutes before it exploded. Ms Häusler was acquitted because it could not be proved that she knew a bomb was in the bag.

[RB: Musbah Eter features prominently in Ken Dornstein’s documentary My Brother’s Bomber. Relevant commentary can be found here and here.]

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