U.S. Seeks Extradition of TWA Flight 847 Murderer from Lebanon

14 February 2006: The United States has officially asked the Lebanese government to extradite a Lebanese man who killed U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, 23 during the 1985 hijacking of TWA Flight 847, State Department officials said Monday. Sought for trial in the U.S. is Mohammed Ali HAMADI, a HEZBOLLAH terrorist from Lebanon.TWA Flight 847 was hijacked on June 14, 1985 while flying from Athens to Rome with 153 passengers and crew aboard. It was commandeered shortly after takeoff by two terrorists who smuggled pistols and grenades through the Athens airport security. On the second day of the 17-day hijacking and hostage ordeal, the plane was forced to land in Beirut, where Hamadi and the other hijackers beat and shot Stethem, and dumped his body on the runway. Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Shiite terrorist, was identified as one of the hijackers was arrested in 1987 in Frankfurt, Germany with liquid explosives in his luggage. He was tried and convicted of Stethem’s murder and was sentenced to life in prison, but was released by German officials on December 20, 2005. The Frankfurt prosecutor’s office declared that “Hamadi had served his time.” He returned to Lebanon, which was confirmed by the Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah.

The U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, Jeffrey Feltman, submitted a formal written request for Hamadi’s extradition to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora last week, although no extradition treaty exists between the U.S. and Lebanon. If extradited, HAMADI would face a series of charges related to the hijacking, including one charge that could potentially carry the death penalty. According to Justice Department officials, however, HAMADI would not likely face a death sentence if he is extradited.

Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other top U.S. officials met with members of Stethem’s family. Patrick Stethem, a brother of the murdered diver, said in December that he was “totally disgusted at the German government, and at the United States government for allowing this to have happened.” State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in December the United States would “find [Hamadi] and bring him to justice in the United States.”

Ali Atwa, Hasan Izz-al-din and Imad Fayez Mugniyah are suspects in the hijacking and Stethem’s murder and are included in the U.S. extradition request, but it is unclear whether those men are in Lebanon. They are listed by the FBI on its list of most-wanted terrorists and members of Hezbollah.