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Motives for Kidnaping, Release Unknown, Ex-Hostage Says

September 16, 1987|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

BONN — A West German businessman recently freed by his kidnapers in Beirut was quoted Tuesday as saying that he does not know why he was seized nor why he was released last week.

Alfred Schmidt, 47, an employee of the giant Siemens electronics company, was quoted by the Munich-based magazine Quick:

"Our guards never told us why we were kidnaped or anything about the negotiations for our release. We also knew nothing about the Hamadi case."

Schmidt and another West German executive, Rudolf Cordes, were kidnaped in separate incidents in Beirut in February, a few days after Mohammed Ali Hamadi, a Lebanese, was arrested at Frankfurt airport.

Hamadi was later charged with complicity in the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner that was taken to Beirut. An American sailor was killed by the hijackers in that incident.

The kidnapers, believed to be members of a militant Shia sect in Lebanon, reportedly demanded the release of Hamadi for the return of the two West Germans, an ultimatum that the Bonn government publicly rejected. It also rejected Washington's request that Hamadi be extradited to the United States, saying he would be tried in a West German court.

Since Schmidt's release, the West German government has clamped a news blackout on the circumstances that led to his freedom, though some publications, Lebanese and German, have claimed that a ransom of $2 million was paid. Bonn has denied that any ransom was paid.

Not Mistreated

It was not immediately clear why Schmidt broke his silence to the magazine, which said it had talked to him after he was handed over to the West German Embassy in Damascus on Sept. 7.

However, Schmidt did say that he and Cordes had not been mistreated by their captors.

"We found out quickly that these people had no negative feelings toward us," Schmidt said. "We were simply barter items, not enemies."

"Rudolf Cordes and I were given no newspapers, and we couldn't listen to the radio or watch television," said the engineer.

Schmidt said that he and Cordes, 53, a manager for the Hoechst chemical firm, were moved from one apartment to another in West Beirut, sometimes in chains.

But Schmidt added, "They certainly did not want us to suffer. They never maltreated or insulted us. We even developed an almost friendly relationship with some of the captors.

"We settled into a certain routine. The hostages and the kidnapers watched video films together. They were such cheap movies--kung fu or war films or comedies. In English, too, so we could understand them."

Schmidt said that at first the two Germans were offered only bread, yogurt and potato chips, but later they were given more elaborate foods from local shops.

As for his release last week, Schmidt declared: "The end came as a complete surprise for me. I had only a brief second to shake Rudolf's hand."

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