BONN — The West German government, formally rejecting a U.S. demand for extradition, announced Wednesday that it will try Mohammed Ali Hamadi, the accused hijacker of an American airliner, in a West German court.
Government spokesman Wolfgang Schaeuble said that Hamadi, a 22-year-old Lebanese Shia Muslim, will be tried as soon as possible on charges of air piracy, murder and carrying explosives.
U.S. officials, including Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, expressed satisfaction over the announcement.
Hamadi has been held here in connection with the June, 1985, hijacking of a Trans World Airlines jetliner to Beirut. Hostages were held for 16 days, and one of them, U.S. Navy diver Robert D. Stethem, was shot to death.
Hamadi was arrested at Frankfurt airport on Jan. 13 as he entered West Germany with a number of wine bottles found to be filled with liquid explosives. Since then, according to West German investigators, he has been identified as one of the hijackers by people who were aboard TWA Flight 847, and his fingerprints have been matched with prints found on the plane.
The U.S. government asked West Germany to extradite Hamadi for trial in the United States, but the Bonn government was reluctant to do so. Soon after his arrest, two West German businessmen were kidnaped in Beirut, and they are believed to be held by friends of Hamadi's family, presumably in the hope of exchanging their hostages for Hamadi.
Brother Also Held
Hamadi's brother, Abbas, a West German national, is also being held in this country, and government spokesman Schaeuble indicated Wednesday, for the first time, that he will be tried on charges relating to the kidnaping of the two West Germans in Beirut.
Schaeuble admitted that his government decided to put Hamadi on trial here rather than extraditing him because, among other things, it will mean a "lesser" risk for the two German hostages in Lebanon--Rudolf Cordes, 53, and Alfred Schmidt, 47.
The two are believed to be held by members of Hezbollah (Party of God), a pro-Iranian group of Shia Muslim extremists that has been blamed for the hijacking of Flight 847. The same group is believed to hold American journalist Charles Glass, who was seized last week in Beirut.
Sources here speculated that Glass may have been kidnaped because he was expected to be called as a witness in the trial of Hamadi. Glass covered the TWA hijacking in Beirut for ABC-TV News.
Schaeuble said there has been "excellent cooperation" between U.S. and West German authorities in the months leading up to Wednesday's announcement. Meese was notified of the decision in Bonn on Tuesday by senior West German officials.
Trial in Frankfurt
Hamadi will be tried in Frankfurt in a state court, Schaeuble said, adding that if he is convicted, any request for clemency will be a matter for the authorities of the state of Hesse to decide.
In Washington, President Reagan said that West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl has assured him that Hamadi will not be granted clemency.
West German diplomats have been trying for months to get the two businessmen released, traveling to Beirut and Tehran with no success. There have been widespread rumors that the Bonn government was trying to make a deal involving some form of leniency for Hamadi, and U.S. congressmen, in response, had insisted that Hamadi be turned over to the United States for trial.