Japan journalist in airport blast voices remorse

LEAD: Japan journalist in airport blast voices remorse

AMMAN, June 18 Kyodo


A Japanese photojournalist on Wednesday again expressed remorse to victims and their families of a blast at Amman airport in May after being pardoned and released from prison in connection with the fatal blast.

At a press conference held in Amman, Hiroki Gomi, an employee of the Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun who covered the Iraq war, apologized for the incident and read out the names of the security guard killed and five people injured in the blast.

Gomi, 36, was convicted of causing the death of the airport security guard and injuring the five people when a bomblet he was carrying went off. He was released Tuesday after King Abdullah II signed documents on Sunday approving an amnesty for him.

Gomi later headed for the airport to return to Japan via London.

He was sentenced June 1 to 18 months in prison by a Jordanian military tribunal for negligence resulting in death and injuries.

He expressed gratitude to the king and the people of Jordan for the pardon.

Gomi also suggested he is thinking of quitting as a journalist. ”I have a feeling that perhaps I may not be qualified (to work in journalism),” he said.

On May 1, a bomblet from a cluster bomb that Gomi was bringing home as a souvenir from Iraq exploded at the airport, killing Ali al-Sarhan and injuring the five.

Gomi was on his way back to Japan after covering the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He said he was bringing home the bomblet as a souvenir and thought it was spent.

Asked about the bomblet at the conference, Gomi said, ”The work on the war in Iraq was big, and I wanted to keep (the bomblet) as evidence.”

He said he may have let his vigilance slacken when he picked it up.

The Mainichi Shimbun has decided that it is not yet appropriate for Gomi to apologize to the victims’ families in person.

Gomi said that he would like to meet the families ”if the circumstances become such that they will agree to meet me.”

Mainichi Shimbun officials said that Gomi wrote letters of apology to the victims’ families when he was in prison and they were sent after talks on compensation were concluded.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group