WASHINGTON,(Reuters) – The brothers of a U.S. Navy diver killed in a 1985 hijacking expressed outrage on Thursday that a Hizbollah hijacker had been released by Germany and demanded Lebanon turn him over to the United States for trial.
Mohammad Ali Hammadi was quietly released last week after serving nearly 19 years of a life sentence for his role in the hijacking of a TWA airliner and the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem in Beirut. He was immediately returned to Lebanon despite U.S. objections.
Stethem”s brother Kenneth said on CNN he was "totally disgusted at the German government and at the United States government for allowing this to have happened and not doing something about it."
Brothers Kenneth and Patrick Stethem said their family had feared Hammadi would be sent back to Lebanon early and avoid going before a judge in the United States.
The brothers said they had tried for six months to speak to U.S. Justice and State Department officials to express their concerns but got no response and have yet to hear from Washington on Hammadi”s status.
"We want him to be brought to justice. We want him to be tried in the United States," Kenneth Stethem said.
Hammadi was arrested in Frankfurt in 1987 and convicted in 1989 of murder, air piracy and possession of explosives.
Germany rejected an early U.S. extradition request on the grounds that he could have faced execution in America. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would track Hammadi down and bring him to justice, but the Stethems said they were not satisfied with that vow.
"We”ve heard the same exact comment for the last 20 years," Kenneth Stethem said, adding that three other hijackers were never captured.
"The one guy who was in prison, who was captured, who was convicted, has been let go," he said.
"Even though they say that they”ll be working with the Lebanese government, there”s no timeline on it. There”s no sense of urgency," Stethem said of Washington”s pursuit of Hammadi.
Patrick Stethem said the United States needed to put pressure on Lebanon to cooperate and said if Beirut did not, it should be branded a country that harbors terrorists.
"The last thing this administration needs, the last thing this country needs, is a new poster boy on terrorism," he said. "If we don”t bring him in to justice, if we don”t bring him back to the United States, he”s going to be a celebrity over there."