One-time American Drug Dealer Released by Lebanese Kidnappers
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP) _ A one-time American drug dealer abducted 11 months ago has been released unharmed, reportedly after his family paid a $400,000 ransom.
Steven John Donahue, 32, was turned over to the U.S. Embassy in Christian east Beirut on Tuesday, but this was not made public until Wednesday. He declined to describe his time in captivity or identify his captors but said he was treated fairly.
Asked how he felt after his release, Donahue told The Associated Press in a telphone interview from the embassy: ″Disoriented, a little bit tired, but very, very happy.″
In Washington, White House spokesman Larry Speakes indicated U.S. officials do not consider the case similar to those of five Americans still missing in Lebanon after being kidnapped by Shiite Moslem extremists.
″It is our understanding that there was no political motivation for his (Donahue) being held,″ Speakes said.
Asked whether he had any contact with the other five captives, Donahue said: ″No. No. No comment on the others.″
In an interview Wednesday, Donahue told ABC News he was released because ″money exchanged hands, about $400,000.″ ABC said the money was paid by his family.
″I was held for economic reasons basically, not political, and the big danger for me was that they were going to turn me over to a political group,″ Donahue told ABC.
Papers filed in U.S. District Court in Newark, N.J., show Donahue originally pleaded innocent in 1983 to three charges of possessing drugs with the intent to distribute but later pleaded guilty to one of the counts - possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
In an interview published by the Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) News and Sun- Sentinel last Oct. 5, Johanna Donahue said her husband agreed to work as an informant after his 1982 arrest in Newark on charges he smuggled hashish from Lebanon.
Lebanese police and Donahue’s wife said he was kidnapped in August 1985.
In his interview with the AP on Wednesday, Donahue claimed he was sent to Lebanon by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ″on a large-scale project. And as far as I can tell a high-placed leak within the administration there disclosed the true nature of my mission.″ He did not elaborate.
DEA spokesman Cornelius Dougherty said Wednesday that Donahue was not working for the agency. Asked whether Donahue was an informant, Dougherty declined comment.
An embassy spokesman said Donahue was a private citizen not working for the U.S. government.
Lebanese officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Donahue was first picked up by Shiite Moslem drug dealers ″for poking his nose into the business.″ The authorities said the drug dealers eventually turned him over to Christian associates in Deir el-Ahmar in eastern Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, the center of Lebanon’s hashish trade.
Neither the Christian nor Shiite clan was identified by name. The Lebanese officials said the Christians escorted Donahue in a three-car convoy filled with gunmen to the U.S. Embassy in the east Beirut suburb of Aukar.
An embassy official, who was not identified, talked with Donahue for about 15 minutes and then emerged to tell the gate guards and escorts, ″OK, thank you.″
Donahue said he would probably leave Lebanon in a few days. He said he was born in Iowa and later lived in New Jersey but did not say where. Previous reports have said he was from Hollywood, Fla.
The five American still missing in Lebanon are Terry A. Anderson, 38, chief Middle East correspondent for the AP; the Rev. Lawrence Jenco, 50, a Roman Catholic priest; David Jacobsen, 54, director of the American University Hospital in west Beirut; Thomas Sutherland, 54, acting dean of agriculture at the American University of Beirut; and William Buckley, 57, a U.S. Embassy political officer.
Seven other Frenchmen, two Britons, one Italian, one Irishman and one South Korean are also missing in Lebanon.