German Chancellor Merkel has a visit scheduled to Washington in January. One would hope that it would be made painfully clear to her that this is not the way to improve relations with America.
“The United States will make every effort to see that this individual, Mohammad Ali Hamadi, faces justice in a United States court for his role in the murder of Mr. [Robert Dean] Stethem,” said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack during his daily briefing in Washington December 20.
Hamadi, a member of the radical Shiite Muslim terrorist group Hizballah, flew to Lebanon after his release December 15, according to a German government spokesman, who denied Hamadi’s parole had any connection to the subsequent release in Iraq of a kidnapped German archeologist, Susanne Osthoff.
This is the same Susanne Osthoff who said her captors told her not to be afraid as her kidnapping was "politically motivated."
"Do not be afraid. We do not harm women or children and you are a Muslim," she quoted them as saying.
"I was so happy to know that I had not fallen into the hands of criminals," she said. She described her captors as "poor people" and that she "cannot blame them for kidnapping her, as they cannot enter (Baghdad's heavily fortified) Green Zone to kidnap Americans."
I guess the Germans no longer consider kidnapping a crime either. Murder? Kidnapping? It's all just playing politics. Osthoff repeated more than once that she "was sold", without making clear what she meant.
U.S. officials originally sought Hamadi’s extradition to the United States at the time of his arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1987, McCormack said. “Germany, at that time, made the decision to assert jurisdiction over the case, and he was tried and convicted and sentenced in Germany,” McCormack told reporters.
“In the years since his arrest and conviction, the United States has made its views known that Hamadi should face trial in the U.S. for the murder of Mr. Stethem,” McCormack continued. “We have demonstrated over the years that, when … we believe an individual is responsible for the murder of innocent civilians, that we will track them down and that we will bring them to justice in the United States.”
Stethem, a 23-year-old U.S. Navy sailor, was a passenger aboard TWA Flight 847 from Athens, Greece, to Rome in 1985, when hijackers seeking the release of Hizbollah prisoners in Israeli jails singled him out for brutal treatment because of his military service. After beating him and shooting him to death, the hijackers dropped his body onto the Beirut, Lebanon, airport runway. Hamadi’s three accomplices remain at large.
The United States now is talking with the Lebanese government about Hamadi’s extradition, but the issue is complicated because the United States and Lebanon do not have an extradition treaty, McCormack said. “So we are in contact with them on this issue and, as I said, regardless of the timeline, we will make every effort to see that this individual stands trial in a U.S. court for what he has done.”
Asked whether the United States renewed its extradition request with Germany after being notified by the German government that Hamadi would be released, McCormack responded later in the day that the U.S. government did not.
“The U.S. request to Germany for Hamadi's extradition was denied almost 20 years ago,” he said. “Our extradition treaty does not permit Germany to extradite a fugitive to the United States on the same charges for which he has already been tried and convicted in Germany.”
McCormack noted that the U.S. and German legal systems differ in their views of whether Hamadi, in fact, has served a sentence for all the potential crimes he may have committed. “In our view, he has not,” McCormack said during the press briefing. “He could be, in fact, convicted of the murder of Mr. Stethem so that -- again, there's a difference in the interpretations between the legal systems,” McCormack said.
“We made our legal case to the German authorities, and our policy is that we will make every effort now to see that he stands trial in the United States,” McCormack said.
The disappointment of the United States is not due solely to the fact that Hamadi was released before the end of his full sentence, McCormack clarified. In fact, even if Hamadi had served his full 25-year sentence, “we still would have him stand trial in the United States,” McCormack said.
“I think it's clear that from the history of this case that we would have preferred that he stand trial in the United States,” he said. “I think you can see that from the fact that we requested his extradition when he was first arrested and the German government decided that they were going to assert their right to try him and imprison him in Germany,” McCormack said.
“We were certainly disappointed at the time that we didn't get our hands on him then,” he said. “And we are disappointed now that he has been released before the end of his full sentence.”
Thanks to US Dept of State