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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 December 2005, 13:29 GMT
Germans release Lebanese hijacker
TWA planes
A TWA plane - Flight 847- was hijacked between Athens and Rome
A member of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah jailed for life by a German court for killing a US Navy diver has been freed, officials say.

Mohammed Ali Hammadi was convicted of killing Robert Dean Stethem in 1989 after the hijacking of an American TWA plane in 1985.

Mr Hammadi was flown back to Beirut last week, diplomatic sources said.

A spokeswoman for the German Justice Ministry told reporters that he had "served his time".

She said that the ministry had never received an extradition request from the US.

Prisoner exchange

TWA Flight 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked on 14 June 1985, forced to land in Beirut. The plane's passengers were kept as hostages for 17 days.

The hijackers demanded the release of 17 members of Hezbollah and the Iraqi Islamic Daawa Party detained in Kuwait for attacks that killed six people in 1983.

They also wanted hundreds of Lebanese Shia detainees held in jails in Israeli-occupied southern Lebanon to be freed.

When the prisoners were not released, one of the hostages US Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem was shot dead.

Following the killing, the hijackers began to release their hostages.

Israel released some Shia prisoners in southern Lebanon a few days afterwards, although they insisted they were merely fulfilling an earlier commitment.

Mr Hammadi was arrested at Frankfurt airport on 13 January 1987 after customs officials found explosives in his luggage.

At his trial, Mr Hammadi admitted he had been involved in the hijacking on the orders of Hezbollah, but denied any involvement in Stethem's death.

Others indicted for the hijacking have escaped capture, including Imad Mughniya, a senior Hezbollah official who is on the FBI's list of "Most Wanted Terrorists" and has a $5 million bounty on his head.



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