A suspect wanted in connection with the 1985 hijacking of a TWA flight from Athens to Rome has been arrested in Greece.
The flight was hijacked and taken to Beirut, Lebanon, where the hijackers tortured and killed 23-year-old Robert Stethem when they discovered he was in the United States Navy. They threw Stethem’s body on the tarmac and proceeded to Algiers. After a 17-day ordeal, the hijackers released the other 146 passengers.
The suspect, Mohammed Ali Hammadi, had been convicted of the hijacking in Germany in 1987 and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 2005.
There seems to be some confusion — or disinformation — coming from Lebanon. A Lebanese government spokesman says the man in custody is a journalist.
In Beirut, the Foreign Ministry said the man detained in Greece is a Lebanese journalist called Mohammed Saleh, and that a Lebanese embassy official planned to try to visit him on Sunday.
However, several Greek media outlets identified the detainee as Mohammed Ali Hammadi, who was arrested in Frankfurt in 1987 and convicted in Germany for the plane hijacking and Stethem’s slaying. Hammadi, an alleged Hezbollah member, was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2005 and returned to Lebanon.
Germany had resisted pressure to extradite him to the United States after Hezbollah abducted two German citizens in Beirut and threatened to kill them.
Hammadi had also been wanted in Germany in connection with a kidnapping. His release caused a huge rift between the U.S. and Germany,
The timing of Hammadi’s release was significant. It came just a couple of days before the release in Iraq of German hostage Susanne Osthoff, an archaeologist who was held captive for several weeks after being kidnapped in the north-western region of the country. The German government is firmly rejecting any suggestion that Hammadi’s release was part of an agreement to free Osthoff. However, Hammadi’s exit from Germany raises major concerns over how exactly the Germans secured Osthoff’s freedom, especially in light of an alleged secret deal between the Italian government and Iraqi insurgents to gain the release of two Italian hostages in August this year.
Germany also refused to expedite Hammadi to the U.S. He is still on the FBI’s Most Wanted list.
This idea that you can release these fanatics and hope against hope that they behave themselves — or at least kill people from other countries, not yours — is idiotic. The statistics on recidivism are a disgrace. At least 17% of former prisoners have gone back to supporting terrorism — that we know of.
Hopefully, the Greeks are made of sterner stuff than the Germans and lock him up for good this time.