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Tue, Dec 27, 2005

US Protests TWA Hijacker Release From Germany

Convicted Of Murder Of US Diver On Flight 847

A Lebanese man who was supposed to serve a life sentence in Germany for the murder of a US Navy Diver onboard a hijacked TWA flight in 1985 has been released -- much to the disappointment and anger of the United States.

Mohammaed Ali Hamadi -- a member of radical Shiite Muslim terrorist group Hizbollah -- flew to Lebanon after his release December 15 from a German prison, according to a German government spokesman.

The same spokesman denied Hamadi's release had anything whatsoever to do with the subsequent release of Susanne Osthoff, a kidnapped German archeologist in Iraq.

According to media reports, the US had sought Hamadi's extradition since his 1987 arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, in connection with the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847 from Athens, Greece to Rome. The hijackers, who were seeking the release of Hizbollah prisoners in Israel, chose to single out one of the passengers, 23-year-old Robert Dean Stethem, for his military service. Stethem was a sailor in the US Navy.

The hijackers beat Stethem before shooting him to death, according to testimony in the Hamadi's case. Hijackers then dumped Stethem's body on the tarmac in Rome in one of the most disturbing television news images of all time (below).

Hamadi was convicted in the hijacking, and of Stethem's murder. Three other suspected accomplices remain at large.

While Hamadi may be free at the moment, as far as the US is concerned he still has a price on his head.

"The United States will make every effort to see that this individual, Mohammaed Ali Hamadi, faces justice in a United States court for his role in the murder of Mr. [Robert Dean] Stethem," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack during a briefing last week in Washington.

Possible extradition from Lebanon remains problematic at best, however, as no formal extradition treaty exists between the two countries. "So we are in contact with them on this issue," said McCormack, "and, as I said, regardless of the timeline, we will make every effort to see that this individual stands trial in a U.S. court for what he has done."

"In the years since his arrest and conviction, the United States has made its views known that Hamadi should face trial in the U.S. for the murder of Mr. Stethem," McCormack continued. "We have demonstrated over the years that, when ... we believe an individual is responsible for the murder of innocent civilians, that we will track them down and that we will bring them to justice in the United States."

FMI: www.doj.gov

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