Witness: Mediator May Be Linked to Hostage-Taking
DUESSELDORF, West Germany (AP) _ A witness said at the kidnapping trial of Abbas Hamadi that a Lebanese mediator may have been involved in the 1987 abduction of two West Germans whom he was reputedly working to free.
Ronnie Andrea Klein told the court Wednesday that she once lived with the mediator, businessman Rashid Mahroum, and had last talked with him in November 1987.
″I had a feeling that he (Mahroum) might be involved with the kidnappings,″ she said.
Mahroum, who now lives in Lebanon, has denied any involvement in the January 1987 kidnapping of West Germans Rudolf Cordes and Alfred Schmidt in Beirut.
Hamadi is on trial in Duesseldorf on charges of masterminding the abductions in a bid to win the release of his brother, Mohammed Hamadi, who is charged in connection with the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner.
The West German government last year arranged for Mahroum to act as a middleman with the captors of Cordes and Schmidt.
Federal police have said they are now seeking Mahroum for questioning in the kidnappings.
Ms. Klein told the court she lived with Mahroum in the West German city of Fuerth from April 1984 to December 1985, and that the two were still on friendly terms up to late last year.
″I last spoke to him on the telephone in November,″ Ms. Klein said, adding she believed he was then in Beirut.
Mahroum traveled to Beirut as a mediator in February 1987, returning with a photocopy of Cordes’ passport and demands by his captors that West Germany reject a U.S. extradition request for Mohammed Hamadi.
″Are you aware if he (Mahroum) has any special political or religious convictions?″ chief Judge Klaus Arend asked Ms. Klein.
″None that I know of,″ she testified.
West German security officials say they believe Cordes is being held by Hezbollah, or Party of God, a radical Shiite Moslem group with close ties to Iran.
Mohammed Hamadi is being held in a Frankfurt prison, awaiting trial on charges of air piracy and murder in connection with the June 1985 hijacking. No date has been set for the trial.
Thirty-nine Americans were held hostage for 17 days and a U.S. Navy diver was killed during the TWA hijacking.
West Germany last year turned down the U.S. extradition request, saying it would try Mohammed Hamadi instead.
In earlier trial testimony, Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s chief of staff, Wolfgang Schaeuble, said the government was forced into making that decision, fearing for the lives of Cordes and Schmidt.
Schmidt and Cordes were kidnapped in Beirut shortly after the Jan. 13, 1987 arrest in Frankfurt of Mohammed Hamadi. Cordes remains a hostage in Lebanon, but Schmidt was released in September.
Another West German, Ralph Rudolph Shray, was kidnapped on Jan. 27 and remains a hostage. There have been no claims for that abduction.
Abbas Hamadi’s trial resumes March 1, with further testimony expected about Mahroum.