GENEVA (Jul. 26)
The hijacker of an Air Afrique jet who murdered a French passenger here Friday was a prisoner in Israel who was released in 1985 under an exchange supervised by the International Red Cross. Hussein Ali Mohammed Hariri, 21, a Lebanese Shiite who reportedly has ties to other Lebanese terrorists, was imprisoned in Israel in 1984 on terrorist charges after being found with a hand grenade.
According to Swiss officials, Hariri, who commandeered the flight from Paris to Brazzaville, Congo, is from a Lebanese village near Tyre considered a stronghold of the Hizbullah, believed to be connected to adherents of Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
His chief demand, according to the Tribune de Geneve, was the release from West German prison of the Hamadei brothers, being held for terrorist crimes. Swiss sources have described Hariri as being a “comrade in arms” of the Hamadei brothers.
The West Germans have said they will try Mohammed Ali Hamadei, 22, in Frankfurt Regional Court for the hijacking of a TWA jet in June 1985 and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem. The United States has unsuccessfully fought to extradite Hamadei to stand trial in the U.S. for Stethem’s murder. Hamadei was arrested in January in Frankfurt carrying three bottles of liquid explosive.
Hamadei’s brother, Abbas Ali Hamadei, 26, was subsequently implicated in a rash of kidnappings of more Americans in Lebanon, as well as of West German nationals. The older Hamadei, who is a West German citizen, was then detained and interrogated, leading Bonn officials to a large cache of liquid explosives in the Saarland and on the French-German border. West German officials said he would stand trial in federal court on charges that may include his complicity in the kidnappings of two West Germans.
In addition, a third brother, Mohammed Abbas Hamadei, is believed to be security chief of the Hizbullah in the Beirut suburbs.
TERRORIST TO BE PUT ON TRIAL
Switzerland’s president, Pierre Aubert, who is also Foreign Minister, said that Hariri would be put on trial for the hijacking and murder, which took place at the Geneva airport. A flight attendant was also wounded in the fray, from which the passengers escaped largely through their own devices before Swiss police could storm the plane.
Aubert said a chief reason Swiss authorities decided not to allow the plane to fly to Beirut, as Hariri had requested, was the presence on board of 64 French nationals. He said Switzerland feared the French would be held as hostage in Lebanon, adding to the six French hostages already being held in that country.
The Swiss president said Hariri would stand trial on charges of air piracy and murder, for which he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Hariri’s capture marks the first time in recent years that Switzerland is holding a terrorist accused of murder who is tied to organized Middle East terrorism. Aubert said he could not rule out reprisals against Swiss citizens living in Iran or Lebanon. Many Swiss are married to Lebanese and some work in Lebanon for the International Committee of the Red Cross.
In May 1985, under IRC supervision, Israel exchanged 1,150 Palestinian prisoners for three Israeli soldiers captured in the Lebanon war and held in Damascus by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, headed by Ahmed Jabril. Among the Palestinians being held in Israel were accused murderers serving life sentences.
The exchange, which was preceded in 1983 by an exchange of six Israeli soldiers for 3,000 Palestinians, was hotly debated in Israel. Eight of the Israelis had been taken prisoner without offering resistance and there were demands in Israel that they be court-martialed.