Germany has revealed that it released last week a Hizbollah member jailed for life for the murder of a US Navy diver in 1985. The justice ministry says Mohammad Ali Hammadi, now in his late 30s, had served his recommended minimum sentence of 19 years.
German legal sources said he had been released on Thursday and travelled to the Lebanese capital on Friday. Hizbollah sources confirmed that Hammadi had returned. The government has rejected speculation that his release was linked to the release a few days later of German hostage Susanne Osthoff in Iraq.
There were efforts to have Hammadi exchanged with German hostages in Lebanon in the 1980s and early 1990s, but they failed. Hammadi was convicted by a German court in 1987 for his role in a June, 1985,hijacking.The hijackers forced a TWA plane to land in Beirut and held the passengers hostage for 17 days, demanding the release of Shi’ite prisoners in Kuwait. One of the hostages, American Robert Stethem, was shot dead, and the others were released. The case will have angered Washington. Diplomats say Germany knew American authorities wanted him to remain behind bars or to be extradited to the US, where he is under indictment for Stethem’s murder. The US did submit an extradition request to the West German government in 1987, but it was turned down since Hammadi could have faced the death penalty in the States.