BONN (Aug. 12)
German authorities have rejected out of hand the suggestion that Palestinian terrorists held in German prisons be included in any global prisoner swap arranged to win the freedom of Western hostages held captive in Lebanon.
Rumors are circulating here that the Iranian-backed Shi’ite groups holding the Western hostages are demanding not only the release of Arab prisoners in Israel but also freedom for two Palestinian brothers imprisoned in Germany for terrorist activities.
A letter that one of the terrorist groups, the Islamic Jihad, sent to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said it would free all hostages in exchange for the “release of freedom fighters held in occupied Palestine and Europe.”
But German officials said the Palestinians imprisoned here would not be part of any deal. “We can’t compromise on murder,” one high-ranking official said, referring to one of the imprisoned brothers, Mohammed Ali Hamadei.
Hamadei was sentenced to life imprisonment here for his role in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet and the killing of one of its passengers, U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem.
His brother, Abbas Ali Hamadei, was later sentenced to 13 years in prison for complicity in the kidnapping of two German businessmen in Beirut, who were taken in an attempt to bring about Mohammed Hamadei’s release.
The two businessmen, Alfred Schmidt and Rudolf Cordes, who were kidnapped shortly after Mohammed Hamadei’s arrest in January 1987, have since been freed.
PRESSURE FROM WASHINGTON
Kidnapped in Beirut at about the same time were four teachers: three Americans and an Indian who had been living in the United States.
Two of those hostages, Robert Polhill and Mithel Eshwer Singh, have since been released. The other two, Alann Steen and Jesse Turner, are still held captive by Islamic Jihad for the Liberation of Palestine.
Germany has come under strong pressure from Washington not to make any compromises on the Hamadei case.
The United States originally asked that Mohammed Hamadei be extradited to stand trial in America. The Germans rejected the request because the United States has the death penalty, which Germany has banned.
But in refusing to turn him over, the Germans also made a firm commitment to Washington that Hamadei would be treated as a criminal and accordingly punished.
Two German humanitarian aid workers also remain in captivity. Heinrich Strubig and Thomas Kemptner were kidnapped in Beirut in May 1989, on the eve of Mohammed Hamadei’s sentencing.
At the end of July, their kidnappers threatened that the two Germans would be mistreated if anything happened to Mohammed Hamadei. The German government said it would not be blackmailed and would not agree to a swap.