Death Penalty Pledge Main Obstacle to Extradition With AM-Germany-Lebanon Bjt
BONN, West Germany (AP) _ U.S. reluctance to promise that a hijacking suspect would not face a death sentence delayed his extradition, but all should go quickly now that the pledge has been made, officials said Monday.
Under terms of a 1978 U.S.-West German treaty, American officials must promise criminal suspects will not be sentenced to death if convicted, Justice Ministry spokesman Juergen Schmid told reporters.
Authorities said Mohammed Ali Hamadi, arrested at the Frankfurt airport when he arrived from Beirut last Tuesday, was identified by fingerprints as one of the hijackers who seized a TWA jetliner June 14, 1985, on a flight from Rome to Athens.
The hijackers shot U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem to death at Beirut airport and held 39 American passengers hostage for 17 days.
″This pledge that the death penalty will not be imposed or sought has been the main obstacle,″ Schmid said. ″The government is legally obligated to seek the pledge. It is not legally possible to ignore it even if the responsible officials wanted to.″
West Germany has never had a death penalty. It is prohibited in the constitution adopted in 1949, reflecting a strong aversion to the death penalty after the Nazi era. Pre-war Germany had a death penalty, and more than 5,000 people were sentenced to death by the People’s Courts for opposing Adolf Hitler.
U.S. Justice Department officials said Sunday they would provide the promise of no death sentence in Hamadi’s case because it appeared to be the only way the 22-year-old Lebanese could be tried in the United States.
Schmid said Monday that West German authorities had not yet received the American pledge in writing.
Once the required papers arrived, he said, they would be sent to a Frankfurt court for a ruling on whether the 1978 treaty’s terms have been fulfilled.
″First we have to get the documents, then we have to wait for the court’s decision,″ Schmid said. ″Only then can we legally extradite him.″
″When we do get the documents, then it can go very fast. It is in our interest to do it as fast as possible. We are under obligation to fulfill the terms of the treaty between the U.S. and the West German government as quickly as possible.″
He would not predict how long the extradition process would take and refused comment on reports that the abduction of a West German businessman Saturday in Beirut was aimed at forcing West Germany to free Hamadi.
″There is no indication of a connection between these two cases, and I will not speculate on any,″ he said.