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Nicaragua to Release Hall Today, Says He's Too Unstable for Trial

January 28, 1987|MARJORIE MILLER | Times Staff Writer

MANAGUA, Nicaragua — A U.S. congressman's brother jailed here on espionage charges will be released today without trial because psychiatrists have determined that he is mentally unstable and unfit to stand trial, government officials said Tuesday.

Nicaraguan Foreign Ministry officials said at a press conference that a psychiatrist and psychologist who examined Sam Nesley Hall indicated that the self-styled counterterrorist is "inclined to carry out acts that could end his own life," and they recommended that he be freed.

Vice Foreign Minister Xavier Chamorro, reading a communique, said that the clinical analysis plus information presented by Hall's brother, Rep. Tony P. Hall (D-Ohio), convinced the government to drop charges against the prisoner. They did not say what information the congressman had provided.

'Humanitarian Gesture'

The communique, however, also reiterated charges that Hall was "carrying out acts of intelligence and espionage which Sam Hall has admitted."

Chamorro called Hall's release "a humanitarian gesture that corresponds with the will for peace of the government of Nicaragua. . . . " He said Hall will be turned over to his family attorney, Gary Froelich, "so that he may be taken to the United States to receive adequate treatment in a specialized institution."

Hall, 49, was arrested Dec. 12 in a restricted military zone near the Punta Huete air base, 30 miles northeast of the capital. According to the government, he was carrying hand-drawn maps of a Nicaraguan port and prison concealed in his sock.

Hall said in press interviews that the Pentagon had asked him in 1984 to form a paramilitary "foreign legion." He said that no such army was formed, but that three men whom he knew by code names--Tinker, Evers and Chance--sent him on missions to Nicaragua.

Claimed to Be Spy

Hall said he was in Nicaragua to gather intelligence and advise the anti-Sandinista contras but he said he did not believe that he was working for the U.S. government.

Froelich was present at the press conference but declined to answer questions. Chamorro said Hall will remain in custody until he leaves with Froelich aboard an Aeronica flight to Miami today.

U.S. Embassy spokesmen said they had no comment on Hall's release.

Five days after Hall was captured, the Sandinistas pardoned and released another American prisoner, Eugene Hasenfus, convicted Nov. 15 by a revolutionary tribunal of smuggling guns to the contras. Hasenfus was captured Oct. 5 after his C-123 cargo plane was shot down in southern Nicaragua.

Hasenfus' subsequent statements and documents aboard the plane provided the outlines of a clandestine, American-run rebel supply operation from Honduras and El Salvador.

Hall Was to Be Tried

Hasenfus' trial was a propaganda boon for the Sandinista government. President Daniel Ortega originally said Hall also would be tried, indicating that his case would be used to accuse the Reagan Administration of plotting direct military action against the government.

"The North American policy is a mentally imbalanced policy, so it is not strange that they sent mentally imbalanced people here to carry out terrorist action," Ortega said several days after Hall's capture.

During his imprisonment, Hall was visited by U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.), who was instrumental in Hasenfus' release. Hall also was visited in jail last week by four Republican congressmen on a fact-finding tour of Central America.

Diplomats here said they did not know what prompted the Sandinistas to release Hall now.

"It could be that they are interested in influencing U.S. public opinion, since he is the brother of a congressman," one said.

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