ROME -- A court convicted a Palestinian Saturday of a 1985 grenade attack that injured 38 people at a sidewalk cafe, sentenced him to 17 years in prison and ordered him expelled from Italy when the term is finished.
After 6 hours of deliberations, the court found Ahmad Hassen Abu Ali Sereya, 23, guilty of carrying out a massacre for the purpose of terrorism, grave injury and violation of Italian arms laws.
The court sentenced Sereya to 17 years in prison, ordered him to pay a fine of $1,500 and mandated that he be expelled from Italy at the end of his prison term.
Sereya, the only suspect arrested in the attack, is believed to be a member of a terrorist organization headed by guerrilla leader Abu Nidal that broke away from the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Thirty-eight people, including 14 Americans, were injured Sept. 15, 1985, when terrorists hurled two hand grenades among customers seated at sidewalk tables of the Cafe de Paris on Rome's Via Veneto. No one was killed.
Sereya was arrested by police on a nearby street a few minutes after the attack. An officer who was near the cafe when the attack took place and then followed Sereya identified him as one of at least two terrorists involved.
Sereya denied throughout the court hearings, which began June 9, that he took part in the raid. His attorney, Giosue Bruno Naso, asked for an acquittal on grounds of insufficient evidence.
'We are Palestinian combatants,' Seraya said in a final court statement when the defense concluded its case. 'I mean that we are not terrorists. We did not do the attack. I hope that we will be friends with the Italians.'
The Palestinian was absent from the courtroom when his sentence was read. His attorney immediately filed an appeal.
Italian investigators believe Abu Nidal has masterminded a number of bloody terrorist acts, including a Dec. 27, 1985, bombing at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport.
In that attack, Palestinian terrorists wielding grenades and submachine guns killed 16 passengers and injured 68. The only surviving member of that terrorist squad, now in Italian custody, told investigators Sereya had links to one of the groups headed by Abu Nidal.