Charge: Farouk Hosny Helped Hijackers of Achille Lauro Escape

The New York Times yesterday reported:
Elaph.com, an Arabic-language Web site, published Saturday what it said were private admissions by Mr. Hosny that when he was the Egyptian cultural attaché in Rome, he helped to organize the escape from Italy in 1985 of the hijackers of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro. In that episode, a retired American Jewish tourist in a wheelchair was shot and pushed into the sea, horrifying much of the world.

Indications of his involvement in the escape of Abu Abbas appear to be widely available in the Arabic literature:
  • http://dostor.org/ar/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=32600&Itemid=58
  • http://www.egyptiantalks.org/invb/?showtopic=52234
  • http://www.almatareed.org/vb/showthread.php?t=409
  • http://www.engineerportsaid.com/2009/01/blog-post_6870.html
  • http://4flying.com/archive/index.php/t-21858.html

Farouk Hosny was the Director of the Egyptian Academy in Rome when he was tapped, two years after the Achille Lauro affair, to become Minister of Culture. According to Zahi Hawass, the Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council on Antiquities, while in Rome
Farouk Hosni was not well known by the public, but he was known and respected as a talented artist within the cultural community. Several reporters visited Farouk Hosni in Rome including my friend Mostafa El Nagar and Ahmed Abu Kaf. When they were interviewing Farouk Hosni he confided in them that Atef Sedky wanted him to be Egypt’s minister of culture but he did not want the job. Upon hearing this Abu Kaf said to Mustafa that Farouk Hosni was dreaming and there was no way he could be the minister of culture. Many people wanted to be the minister of culture including famous writers and journalists.

On October 7, 1985, led by Abu Abbas, men representing the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) took control of the liner off Egypt as she was sailing from Alexandria to Port Said. After being refused permission to dock at Tartus, the hijackers killed disabled American passenger Leon Klinghoffer and then threw him overboard.[1] The ship headed back towards Port Said, and after two days of negotiations, the hijackers agreed to abandon the liner in exchange for safe conduct and were flown towards Tunisia aboard an Egyptian commercial airliner.

United States President Ronald Reagan ordered that the plane be intercepted and directed to land at Naval Air Station Sigonella, a N.A.T.O. base in Sicily, where four hijackers were arrested by the Italians after a disagreement between American and Italian authorities. The other passengers on the plane (possibly including the hijackers' leader, Abu Abbas) were allowed to continue on to their destination, despite protests by the United States. Egypt demanded an apology from the U.S. for forcing the airplane off course. Italy refused extradition of the prisoners to the United States and they were tried in Italy.

The fate of those convicted of the hijacking was varied:
  • Bassam al-Asker was granted parole in 1991. He died on February 21, 2004.
  • Ahmad Marrouf al-Assadi disappeared in 1991 while on parole.
  • Youssef Majed al-Molqi, convicted of killing Leon Klinghoffer [2], was sentenced to 30 years, left the Rebibbia prison in Rome on February 16, 1996, on a 12-day furlough, and fled to Spain, where he was recaptured and extradited back to Italy. On April 29, 2009, Italian officials released him from prison on good behaviour.[4][5] In June 2009, however, al-Molqui's attorney told the Associated Press that the Italian authorities had placed his client in a holding cell and were about to deport him to Syria.[6]
  • Abu Abbas left the jurisdiction of Italy and was convicted in absentia. In 1996, he made an apology for the hijacking and murder, and spoke out in favor of peace talks between Palestinians and Israel; the apology was rejected by the U.S. government and Klinghoffer's family, who insisted he be brought to justice. Abbas was captured in Iraq in 2003 by the U.S. military during its 2003 invasion of Iraq. He died in U.S. custody March 8, 2004.
  • Ibrahim Fatayer Abdelatif was sentenced to 30 years imprisonment. He served 20 and three more on parole and on July 7, 2008, he was expelled from an illegal immigrant detention center in Rome. He plans to appeal this arguing that he has nowhere else to go since Lebanon will not allow his return as he was born in a refugee camp and is thus not a Lebanese citizen.


  1. This story was also picked up by the French students who run the anti-Hosny website, Save UNESCO: "How Farouk Hosny spied on students and hid terrorists".

  2. I have just rejected a comment with an unsubstantiated charge made anonymously against one of the candidates. I will publish sourced comments whether I agree with them or not, if presented in a civil fashion, but I will not do so without someone standing up for the accuracy of the report.

  3. I just wasted some time trying to track down Google searches as suggested anew by my anonymous correspondent. I did not find any of the references he suggested.

    I would accept a link to an authoritative source for a charge. Thus the site I mention above was cited by the New York Times.

    If someone wants to make a charge from his own direct knowledge, then I would expect to see that person identify himself/herself sufficiently that an injured party could sue for libel.

  4. Anonymous9/22/2009

    In that case, Farouk Hosny is going to be suing an awful lot of people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. My anonymous correspondent sent me a link to an article that contained the following:

    "On the cultural and ideological scene Georgi Bokov,
    editor-in-chief of the party daily Rabotnichesko Delo, lost his position in early May. His removal was made known a few days after he had been dropped from his post as president of the Bulgarian Journalists' Union and a month after his removal from the CC secretariat during the 11th BCP congress in early April. His replacement as head of the party daily was Petar Dyulgerov, until recently first secretary of the Blagoevgrad District Party Committee. Veselin Yosifov, editor of the weekly Anteni, replaced Bokov as head of the Journalists' Union. These changes appear to reflect dissatisfaction with Bokov's performance, and may be related to recent widespread criticism of Bulgarian journalism."

    Irina Bokova is a member of a prominent Bulgarian family. Her father was Georgi Bokov is described in the paragraph and her brother Filip Bokov also has been prominent in Bulgarian politics.

    The charge that her father lost his job due to dissatisfaction with his performance is far more modest than that which my correspondent first made, and seems to have little to do with Ambassador Bokova's qualifications for UNESCO.

    I am now going to stop this correspondence and go on to other, more useful things.

  6. The suggested topic of the father of Irina Bokova seems interesting. By the way today`s New York Times issue refers to this development - you may check out the following link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/22/world/22unesco.html?_r=1&ref=world.
    The newspaper points out that the alternative to Farouk (Irina) comes from a prominent communist family in Bulgaria. There is an implied link between the reported involvement of Farouk in restricting press and censoring films and books, on one side, and the obvious censorship exercised by the father of Irina as editor-in-chief of the official communist newspaper in Bulgaria, on the other. That said, New York Times is right to conclude that it is against the values and freedoms promoted by UNESCO.

  7. Elaph is an online Arabic newspaper, apparently widely read. Its corporate headquarters is in the United Kingdom. It is consistently in the top 5000 most visited websites in the world.

  8. Anonymous9/23/2009

    Indeed, set up in London with Saudi and American funding. Now why would they push this story when they did? Think about it...

  9. Anonymous9/23/2009

    a clue: think back to the 1999 elections when Matsuura managed to get himself elected ahead of Serageldin and Al Qoseibi

  10. Anonymous9/23/2009

    In any event, it seems to have been instrumental in pushing Spain and Italy and probably others over to Bokova, overriding the gains Hosny secured thanks to the efforts of a previously-defeated candidate and uniting all or almost all the whole of Europe against the Arab candidate. Samuel Huntington could not have written a better script in his wildest dreams. And well done to Lévy and the bloggers for making that dream come true yesterday.