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Nicaragua to Free Accused U.S. Spy Because of Health

January 27, 1987|DON SHANNON | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — The brother of Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio), held by Nicaragua's leftist government on espionage charges for more than a month, will be released without trial, the congressman said in a statement Monday.

Nicaraguan Ambassador Carlos Tunnermann telephoned the congressman Monday evening to inform him of the release of Sam Nesley Hall, 49, for what the Nicaraguan Embassy here called "needed medical treatment." The embassy did not specify Hall's health problem.

In Managua, the Nicaraguan capital, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Angela Saballos confirmed the decision, which she said was made Monday by the Sandinista regime.

Sam Hall, a self-styled American counterterrorist, was arrested Dec. 12 near a restricted air base 13 miles northeast of Managua. Nicaraguan officials said he was carrying hand-drawn maps of the installation at the time.

Family Lawyer in Managua

The congressman said the Hall family's attorney, Gary Froelich of Dayton, was already in Managua, where he had gone to prepare Sam Hall's defense.

Rep. Hall said in his statement that he has asked Froelich "to get in touch with the Nicaraguan government to see if he can bring Sam back with him. I am grateful to the Nicaraguan government for promising to release my brother, and I am looking forward to seeing him when this trauma is all over."

Saballos did not specify when Sam Hall would actually be released or whether he would be turned over to Froelich. Rep. Hall's press secretary, Michael Gessel, told Reuters news agency that "though no timetable was given, it was likely that the release would occur in days rather than weeks."

Earlier, Managua officials had indicated that they would seek to use the case as a political weapon against the Reagan Administration, as it did with that of another American, Eugene Hasenfus, who was captured last year after his plane was shot down on a mission to fly weapons to U.S.-backed Nicaraguan contras.

Code Names Cited

In announcing last month that Sam Hall would be tried by a political court, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega made clear that the Sandinista government would cite the case as an example of Administration efforts aimed at toppling the Managua regime.

Hall claimed at a news conference 10 days after his arrest that the Pentagon had asked him in 1984 to form a paramilitary "foreign legion." Although no such army was ever formed, he said, three men whom he knew only by code name--Tinker, Evers and Chance--took over the project and sent him on missions to Nicaragua.

Hall said he was to gather intelligence and advise the contras fighting the Marxist Nicaraguan government. However, he said he did not know if his contacts were connected with the American government, adding: "I am not working for the U.S. government that I know of."

State Department officials had no immediate comment on the disclosure of Hall's pending release.

Unaware of Health Problem

George M. Lowrey, Rep. Hall's administrative assistant, said in a telephone interview that he was unaware of a specific health problem that may have affected the congressman's brother since he was arrested. However, he added, two congressmen who visited Sam Hall in prison last week reported that he had difficulty sleeping because of the heat and the unaccustomed diet.

"Sam told the congressmen: 'I feel like I'm on the way down.' It sounds as if he may have caught a virus or a parasite," Lowrey said. But he added that Sam Hall "made it clear that he was being treated well."

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