An Arrest from a Past Nightmare

Many times cases turn up cold where years pass before justice is served and arrest are made.  This case dates back to 1985 when TWA Flight 847 was hijacked, and over one hundred passengers were kept on board the plane for 17 days.

The militant terrorists involved also killed a United States Navy diver after severely torturing him.  His body was thrown from the aircraft in Beirut onto the tarmac.  A kidnapping in Germany also took place in 1987 where the same person was involved and had an international warrant for his arrest all these years.

At the end of last week, he was arrested by Greek authorities, and German and Greek authorities are currently working the case to figure out who the 65-year-old suspect is.

Many people had their televisions tuned in to the coverage of the 17-day ordeal beginning on June 14, 1985.  A police spokesman told reporters of the Associated Press about where the story started reminding everyone of the living nightmare which took place.

“The hijacking case involving TWA Flight 847 was commandeered by hijackers shortly after taking off from Athens on June 14, 1985. It originated in Cairo and had San Diego set as a final destination, with stops scheduled in Athens, Rome, Boston, and Los Angeles.

The hijackers shot and killed U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem, 23, after beating him unconscious. They released the other 146 passengers and crew members on the plane during an ordeal that included stops in Beirut and Algiers. The last hostage was freed after 17 days.”

Saturday, the suspect was confirmed to be in custody by the Greek authorities on the island of Syros and will be transferred to Athens’ high-security prison to await extradition back to Germany.

It is confirmed the suspect is Lebanese, but since the case is still being worked, no more information can be given at this time.  Police are not releasing the suspect’s name to the public until all information is gathered.

It was the 1987 kidnapping charges which tied the two cases together where two German citizens were taken, and the suspect was a part of the group known as Hezbollah.  Even though authorities are not releasing any information, the Foreign Ministry in Beirut told reporters the man being held in Greece is Mohammed Saleh, a journalist from Lebanon.  The Lebanese embassy official went to pay him a visit on Sunday in the high-security prison.

There is confusion on the name of the suspect as he seems to be known by other names.  Greek media outlets are calling him Mohammed Ali Hammadi and stated he was arrested in 1987 in Frankfurt Germany for the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and the death of Stethem.  He was sentenced to life in prison but was paroled in 2005.  Hammadi skipped parole and returned to Lebanon.  His fellow hijackers kidnapped two German citizens and demanded Hammadi’s release.

The United States pressured Germany to have Hammadi extradited but refused due to Hezbollah threated to kill Hammadi.  He was alleged to be a part of the terrorist group.

The FBI to this day still has Hammadi as one of the most wanted terrorists along with his accomplices Hasan Izz-Al-Din and Ali Atwa.  There is a $5 million reward for any information leading to the arrest of each man for the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 and murder of Robert Stethem, 23.

Monday afternoon, it was confirmed the man they thought was the mastermind behind the TWA hijacking and the death of the Navy diver was not Mohammed Ali Hammadi.  German authorities confirmed the man is actually Mohamed Ali Saleh.

Greek Police released Saleh and put out this statement, “In the afternoon hours (of Monday) we were informed by German authorities that the relevant German prosecution authorities will not seek the extradition of the individual since his identification was not possible and that he should be released.”

Stethem’s elder brother, Ken Stethem was interviewed on “Fox & Friends,” and told the host he had his doubts when the discrepancies of the names came into play.  He explained how his brother was singled out by the hijackers when they realized he was a U.S. Navy Sailor.  Stethem was killed on the second day of the hijacking for refusing to comply with the hijackers in Beirut.

It was a heartbreaking moment which brought back painful memories for the Stethem family.  The hijackers still remain at large, and it leaves many wondering if justice will ever be served.