Convicted terrorist Yousef Majed al-Molqui, the ringleader of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro, has been freed from an Italian prison. Molqui served 23 years of his 30-year jail sentence for his role in the hijacking and murder of a wheelchair-bound Jewish passenger.
Italian officials announced Molqui's release on Thursday. He is currently staying in a holding center, where he is fighting an expulsion order. He has married an Italian citizen, and claims that his marriage should grant him citizenship as well. In addition, Molqui argues that he has no citizenship. As a descendant of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel, Molqui is not eligible for citizenship in Israel, nor is he eligible for citizenship in his state of birth.
Molqui escaped in 1996 while on leave from prison, but was recaptured and returned to jail.
Molqui and three other members of the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) terrorist group hijacked the Achille Lauro cruise ship off the coast of Egypt in 1985. The hijackers demanded the release of 50 terrorist prisoners in Israeli jails.
During the incident, the hijackers also murdered wheelchair-bound American citizen Leon Klinghoffer and threw his body overboard. Klinghoffer, 69, was singled out because he was Jewish.
A second hijacker, Ibrahim Abdel-Atif, was released from prison last year and is also fighting a deportation order. Like Molqui, Abdel-Atif has no citizenship, as his country of birth, Lebanon, refuses to grant citizenship to descendants of Arabs who fled pre-state Israel.