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Berlin Bomber Sentenced

A Berlin court convicted Johannes Weinrich of murder and attempted murder Monday and sentenced him to life in prison for the 1983 terrorist bombing of a French cultural center in then-West Berlin, an attack that killed one person and injured 23.

Chief Judge Hans Boss said Weinrich, a former Red Army Faction member who headed European operations for terrorist Carlos the Jackal during the 1970s and 1980s, was guilty of "an especially serious crime."

Sitting behind bulletproof glass, the 52-year-old Weinrich took notes as the judge announced his conviction on one count of murder and five counts of attempted murder, but he showed no emotion.

The court rejected the defense's contention that a key piece of evidence -- a letter found in the archives of the former East German secret police -- had been faked.

Weinrich's lawyer Rainer Elfferding said he would appeal. "We don't know the origin of the secret service files, and they should not have been admitted as evidence," he told reporters.

The court also convicted co-defendant Nabil Shritah, a former Syrian diplomat who served as a key witness for the prosecution, of being an accessory to the attack, and gave him a two-year suspended sentence. Prosecutors say he stored the explosives at the Syrian Embassy in then-communist East Berlin before handing them back to Weinrich on Aug. 25, 1983, the day of the attack. Shritah said he would not appeal his sentence.

Shritah testified early in the nearly four-year trial that Weinrich returned to the embassy shortly after the bombing and told him "he was involved in this attack."

Prosecutors said Weinrich had brought the explosives from Romania into East Germany in 1982, where they were initially seized by the Stasi secret police but later given back to him.

Much of the case against Weinrich was based on files of the former East German secret police that became available after 1990, including a letter Weinrich allegedly wrote to Carlos the Jackal that contained details about the bombing and was originally passed to the East Germans by the Hungarian secret service.

But the defense questioned the letter's authenticity in its closing arguments last month and said prosecutors had not cleared up how the explosives were brought into West Berlin from East Berlin. Weinrich's attorneys also said Shritah was an unreliable witness.

Once one of Germany's most-wanted terror suspects, Weinrich was arrested in 1995 in Yemen after running out of places to hide. He never responded in detail to the charges during the trial.

Prosecutors say the West Berlin bombing was one of several unsuccessful attempts to pressure France to free Carlos' lover and another member of his terrorist gang from a French prison.

Carlos, a Venezuelan whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, was arrested in Sudan in 1994. He was handed over to France for trial for a string of killings and bombings datin from 1975.

By Tony Czuczka
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