Irish soldiers’ accused killer faces US deportation

A man accused of the torture and killing of two Irish soldiers is to be deported from the US to his native Lebanon.

Mahmoud Bazzi agreed to drop his opposition to the deportation during a court hearing in Detroit, Michigan, yesterday.

The 71-year-old had fought the charge of illegally entering the US on a false passport, faced hearing the testimony of retired Irish soldier John O’Mahony, who survived after being kidnapped along with his two murdered colleagues.

Under an agreement with the government, Bazzi will be returned to Lebanon but will avoid stops at any European airport, his lawyer said. This is to minimise the possibility of being arrested and sent to Ireland to be prosecuted for allegedly murdering Privates Derek Smallhorne, aged 31, and Thomas Barrett, a 29-year-old father of three.

Relatives of Bazzi, a one-time member of the South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-backed militia, said he did not expect to face any charges on his return to the Middle East.

John O’Mahony, from Kerry, said he had been contacted by the US embassy and asked whether he was prepared to give testimony via video link at the deportation hearing.

He readily agreed, telling the embassy official it was exactly what he had been waiting for.

But, in a surprise move, Bazzi told the court, via video link from a Detroit area county jail, that he agreed to be deported to Lebanon, where he has not set foot for more than two decades. He would pack his US flag, Bazzi said.

“I love this country. I learned a lot from my children about this country,” said Bazzi, who earned a living as an ice cream seller in the city of Dearborn.

Bazzi is accused of the 1980 kidnapping of the three Irish soldiers, part of the UN peacekeeping mission based in south Lebanon, two other UN personnel, and two journalists.

The Irish soldiers were reportedly killed in revenge for the death of Bazzi’s brother. Bazzi admitted to killing them in a television report broadcast in Lebanon at the time.

Mr O’Mahony and journalist Steve Hindy have identified Bazzi as the leader of the group of kidnappers that also drove the two other UN personnel away. Their bodies were discovered later the same day.

Bazzi now claims to be innocent and that he was forced to make the confession by his commanders.

His daughter, Malak Bazzi, 26, told the Detroit Free Press that her father lived in Lebanon for 10 years after the killings and was never prosecuted. She claimed he is innocent.

Bazzi’s lawyer said he expected his client to return to Lebanon within the month.

The lawyer said the deal with the government includes Bazzi avoiding any stops in Europe on the way to Lebanon.

Ireland has no extradition agreement with Lebanon. It is highly improbable he will ever face charges in Ireland.

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