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Witness Says Hamadi Told Passengers To Let Serviceman Die

November 22, 1988

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ A former American hostage said today that confessed TWA hijacker Mohammed Ali Hamadi, when told an American serviceman aboard the plane was suffering heart pains, responded ″Let him die.″

Sue Ellen Herzberg also testified at Hamadi’s trial that she felt ″degraded to an animal state″ during the June 1985 hijacking in which U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem was killed and 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days.

Mrs. Herzberg and her husband, Richard, were returning from their honeymoon when Hamadi and an accomplice seized TWA Flight 847 en route from Athens to Rome and diverted it to Beirut and Algiers.

Hamadi, a Lebanese Shiite Moslem, is accused of murder and air piracy in the hijacking. He has confessed to the hijacking, but denies killing Stethem.

″We heard terrible beatings and terrible screams in the first-class compartment,″ Mrs. Herzberg told the court that has been hearing the case since July 5.

She said a man sitting behind her was suffered chest pains and the woman sitting next to him asked Hamadi to call a doctor.

The defendant then asked the ailing man, U.S. Navy diver Stuart Dahl, to identify himself, Mrs. Herzberg said.

″The man said he was military, and Hamadi said, ’Let him die,‴ she told the court.

Mrs. Herzberg described how the hijackers ″started shouting out what sounded like Jewish names. One of them was my husband’s.″

These passengers were taken to the back of the plane, she said.

″I heard (my husband) say he was German. And that’s the last I heard of him,″ she said.

Richard Herzberrg was one of several passengers taken off the plane in Beirut and hidden in the city until the hijacking was over. The couple was reunited after the 17-day ordeal.

Mrs. Herzberg described how Hamadi robbed her of about $11,000 worth of jewelry.

″I had already been degraded to an animal state and I didn’t want to be degraded anymore, so rather than hand him my jewelry I threw it on a seat and (Hamadi) dove at the seat like he had found the Hope diamond.

″They touched every part of my body as I was being turned around and searched,″ she told the court, noting that the hijackers took her wedding and engagement rings.

She said Hamadi was giving orders and appeared to be directing the hijacking.

″I still think about the hijacking every day,″ she told the court. ″I have nightmares and I saw a psychologist for a year.″

During a break in the proceedings today, jailers could not free Hamadi from the court security room in which he is locked and had to use a cutting torch to open the door.

On Monday, defense attorney Hans-Burkhardt Steck asked the court to authorize a psychiatric examination of Hamadi, claiming he had been emotionally damaged as a youth during Beirut street fights. Steck said his client was ″mentally disturbed″ at the time of the hijacking.

Hamadi was arrested at Frankfurt Airport in January 1987 after customs officials found liquid explosives in his luggage.

Update hourly