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Greek police free man arrested for involvement 1985 plane hijacking due to mistaken identity

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By Katherine Berjikian  & AFP
REUTERS/Jamal Saidi/Files
REUTERS/Jamal Saidi/Files

A Lebanese man who was detained for five days in Greece for his involvement in a 1985 plane hijacking has been released after authorities concluded they had the wrong person, AFP cited police as saying.

Mohammed Saleh, a 65-year-old journalist, was arrested on the Greek island of Mykonos last Thursday for his supposed involvement in the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 on June 14, 1985, and the murder of an American passenger.

Saleh was then released five days later after Greek police said that they were unable to establish that he was the hijacker.

But Lebanese officials had said on Monday the arrest was a case of mistaken identity as the man's first name is nearly identical to that of the suspected hijacker, Mohammed Ali Hamadei, who is wanted in Germany for the hijacking and murder.

His surname, however, does not match that of the suspect.

After his arrest, Saleh was held in a high-security prison while German authorities tried to verify his identity, according to AFP.

He was then interrogated twice, once by a German investigator and later by an Arabic-speaking investigator with the Greek counter-terrorism police, it added.

Neither officer was able to determine that he was the hijacker in question, and he was eventually released on September 23, AFP said.

“It is regrettable that modern countries don’t have a fast exchange of information about a person,” Leila Saleh, Mohammed Saleh's wife, told the Associated Press.

“A man was subjected to injustice for five days because they cannot check information,” she added.

Saleh is expected to return to Lebanon on Wednesday at 3 pm CEST.

TWA Flight 847 was hijacked shortly after it took off from Athens, Greece by a group of people demanding the release of prisoners in Israel.

The plane, with 153 passengers on board, crisscrossed the Middle East for a period of 17 days, landing in Beirut three times.

During its first stop in Beirut, a 23-year-old passenger was beaten and shot in the head before his body was thrown onto the tarmac.

Mohammed Ali Hamadei, one of the people involved in the crime, is still on the FBI’s most-wanted list.

There is a reward of $5 million (around €4.5 million) being offered for any information that could lead to his arrest.