BONN (Sep. 8)
Germany has turned down a demand by Shi’ite groups holding Western hostages in Lebanon to release two brothers imprisoned here for terrorist activities.
But according to diplomatic sources, the German government is not ruling out an eventual pardon of Mohammed and Abbas Hamadei, whose freedom has been pegged by Shi’ite groups to the release of the Western hostages.
That appears to signal a shift for Germany, which has come under pressure from the United States not to give in to the terrorists’ demands.
In mid-August, German authorities totally rejected any suggestion that the Palestinian terrorists be included in any global prisoner swap. A high-ranking official said then, “We can’t compromise on murder.”
The United States is particularly interested in the case, because Mohammed Hamadei is serving a life term in a German prison for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jet to Beirut and the killing of a U.S. Navy diver, Robert Stethem.
The United States relinquished its request for his extradition only after what was then West Germany promised he would be treated as a criminal and accordingly punished.
Bonn’s refusal to turn Hamadei over to Washington had been premised on the fact that the United States imposes the death penalty, which Germany has banned.
Mohammed Hamadei’s brother, Abbas, was apprehended in January 1987, shortly after his brother was arrested, and sentenced to 13 years for his role in kidnappings of two German businessmen in Lebanon following his brother’s arrest.
EITHER ALL FREED OR NONE
The two Germans kidnapped on Abbas’ intervention were subsequently freed. However, two more Germans, humanitarian aid workers in Lebanon, were later kidnapped and remain in captivity. Bonn is seeking their release.
It is believed the Germans and other hostages are being held by the Shi’ite fundamentalist Hezbollah. On Sept. 1, the group’s spiritual leader, Sheik Mohammed Fadlallah, told German journalists that the release of the Hamadeis is one of the conditions for freeing the Western hostages.
“Either they all enjoy freedom or none,” he was quoted as saying.
Fadlallah accused Israel of blocking the effort to free the hostages by refusing to release Arab detainees and by demanding hard evidence about seven Israeli servicemen missing in Lebanon.
The Hamadeis’ release also was hinted at in a letter the Islamic Jihad group had freed British hostage John McCarthy deliver to U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Fadlallah, who is a devotee of Iran’s late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, is a strong-willed and powerful leader who believes absolutely in an Islamic state and is fiercely opposed to Israel, as well as the United States.
In an April 1985 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel, Fadlallah said Israel’s very existence is illegitimate, because Israelis took the land of the Palestinians.
“Even if the Jews suddenly would become Moslems, we would demand that they leave the land of Palestine that they have usurped,” he said.