BONN (Dec. 12)
Despite persistent denials by government officials, evidence continues to mount that pardons are being considered for a pair of convicted Arab terrorists serving prison sentences in Germany, in exchange for the release of two Germans held hostage in Lebanon.
Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher met Thursday with the deputy foreign minister of Iran, Mahmoud Vaezi, who emerged from the meeting saying progress had been made.
He may have been referring to a deal to swap the brothers Mohammad and Abbas Hamadi for Heinrich Struebig and Thomas Kemptner, German relief workers kidnapped in Beirut on May 16 1989.
They are the last Western hostages held by Islamic groups in Lebanon. Iran, anxious to improve its relations with the West, is known to be trying hard to broker their release.
The group holding them, dominated by the Hamadi family, is demanding that Israel free several hundred Palestinian and Lebanese Shi’ite prisoners. But Bonn, too, has come under increasing pressure from inside Germany, as well as abroad.
Several commentators on the state-run national television are arguing that freedom for the Hamadi brothers is the only way to end the ordeal of the German hostages.
But the United States would certainly lodge powerful objections.
Mohammad Ali Hamadi is serving a life sentence for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner and the murder of an American passenger, U.S. Navy diver Robert Stetham of Waldorf, Md.
Bonn rejected an American extradition request when he was arrested, because German law does not permit extradition to countries that have capital punishment.
Abbas Hamadi, arrested in 1988, is serving time for kidnapping two German businessmen, who were subsequently released.