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Germany: Terrorist Linked to 1981 RFE/RL Bombing Jailed For Life

Munich, 19 January 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A German court has given a life sentence to a terrorist whose crimes allegedly include a leading role in the bombing of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty headquarters in Munich in 1981.

The 52-year-old Johannes Weinrich was sentenced to life imprisonment Monday for his role in the 1983 bombing of a French cultural center in West Berlin in which one person was killed and 23 wounded. In an unusual move, the judge directed that he would not be eligible for parole after 15 years as is common in German murder cases.

A former Syrian diplomat in communist East Berlin, Nabil Shritah, was given a two-year suspended sentence for supplying Weinrich with explosives shortly before the 1983 bombing.

The Berlin court was told that Weinrich headed the European operations for Illich Ramirez Sanchez, the Venezuelan terrorist known as Carlos, during the 1970s and 1980s. European police authorities have repeatedly accused Carlos and Weinrich of involvement in several terrorist actions, including the 1981 bomb attack on RFE/RL.

Among them are the 1975 attack on an Israeli airliner in Paris and the 1983 attack on the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Athens. Carlos is now serving a life sentence in France.

No one has been arrested or formally accused of charges related to the RFE/RL bombing, in which five people were injured.

At the time of the attack on RFE/RL, Carlos and several members of his group were living in Hungary. Documents found in the files of the former East German intelligence service show that after the RFE/RL attack Carlos went to Bucharest where he was congratulated by senior members of the Romanian security service, the Securitate. Soon afterwards, the Hungarian authorities told him that he and his group were unwelcome. Carlos then moved his operations to Syria.

Some of the East German documents were made available to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty after the integration of East and West Germany. Hungarian and Romanian authorities also provided some information.

According to these reports, the RFE/RL bombing was the work of a team sent to Munich especially for this operation. Weinrich was a member of the team together with a Swiss citizen Bruno Berguet.

Hungarian authorities intercepted a phone call from Weinrich in Munich to Carlos, who had remained in Budapest, in which Weinrich reported the success of the attack. On November 5, 1991, Hungarian State Prosecutor Kalman Georgyi named Berguet as the individual who was believed to have triggered the bomb. Ten days later, Georgyi wrote to RFE/RL to say that Budapest had suspended the investigation as the suspects had left Hungary. But a report by the Bavarian state criminal office (Landeskriminalamt) concluded that Carlos and Weinrich had participated directly or indirectly in the attack on RFE/RL.

The trial against Weinrich which came to an end Monday has been in progress for almost five years. The Bavarian state criminal office said Tuesday that after the reunification of Germany Weinrich fled to Syria and then to Yemen. He was handed over to German authorities in Yemen in June 1995.

Carlos left Syria at the same time as Weinrich and went to Sudan. In 1995 he was captured by French agents in a hospital and taken to France. Carlos has been accused of more than 80 murders around the world.

For Weinrich, the sentence is not the end of the story. German prosecutors said they would bring other charges against him, but they declined to say whether the attack on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty would be among them.