Germany sets Hizbullah prisoner responsible for 1985 TWA hijacking free despite US calls for extradition
Lebanese political sources revealed on Tuesday that Germany had released, Mohammad Ali Hammadi, a Hizbullah member serving a life sentence for the killing a US Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem in 1985.
Hammadi, who killed Stethem during the hijacking of a TWA flight 847, had been sentenced to life without parole. He was convicted by Germany in 1989 for his role in the hijacking the plane and diverting it to Beirut and Algiers and for murder. Three of the other alleged hijackers, Imad Mugniyah, Ali Atwa, and Hassan Izz-Al-Din were placed on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. Rewards of $25 million for information leading to their arrests and convictions are currently being offered by the United States.
German authorities reportedly returned Hammadi to Lebanon despite US attempts to extradite him if he was ever freed. He had been arrested in Germany two years after the hijacking.
The German Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the matter, according to Reuters.
Since Hammadi's capture in 1987, many unsuccessful attempts were made to have him exchanged with German hostages held in Lebanon in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Hammadi's brother, Abdul-Hadi, was a senior official in Hizbullah at the time of the hijacking.
Hammadi's release coincides with the release of German hostage Susanne Osthoff, who was abducted on November 25 in Iraq.
A senior German intelligence officer had reportedly visited Damascus, a key supporter of Hizbullah, early this month without revealing the purpose of the trip. One German government official, however, told Reuters that connection between the two abductions was "completely unfounded."
TWA Flight 847 was hijacked while flying from Athens to Rome. The hijackers later identified Stethem among the passengers, and beat him, shot him in the right temple, and dumped his body out of the plane.
Germany's decision is likely to displease Washington. Stethem was a native of Waldorf, Maryland.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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