The government has rejected a U.S. request for extradition of accused airline hijacker Mohammed Ali Hamadi and will put him on trial in West Germany for murder and other charges, official sources here said Monday.
The move apparently stems from Bonn's fear that kidnapers of two West German businessmen will carry out their threat to kill their captives if Hamadi is extradited to the United States.
The apparent Bonn decision, which is expected to be announced formally on Wednesday, drew angry responses from several U.S. lawmakers. But President Reagan, according to a Reuters news agency report, said he has no objection to the decision as long as Hamadi is tried on a murder charge.
"I am angered," Sen. Alfonse M. D'Amato (R-N.Y.), a co-chairman of the Senate's anti-terrorist caucus, said, according to a Reuters report. "It's a tragic disgrace and capitulation to terrorists."
Reagan was asked about Hamadi on a visit to Melbourne, Fla. "All I could tell you was that I knew and have known that he is going to be tried for murder wherever he is tried," he said.
Asked if that satisfied him, Reagan replied, "Yes."
Chief Bonn government spokesman Friedhelm Ost warned West German citizens Monday to leave Lebanon before Wednesday's expected formal announcement. The 22-year-old Lebanese would be tried for piracy and murder in connection with the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner and for carrying explosives into this country.
West German law allows suspects to be tried on such charges even if the crimes were committed outside the country.
Despite Reagan's statement, official sources here said that U.S. Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III will be in Bonn today in an attempt to get the government to change its mind.
U.S. officials say they have hard evidence that Hamadi was a leading member of the terrorist gang that hijacked the TWA airliner on a flight from Athens to Rome in June, 1985, thereafter shuttling between Algiers and Beirut during a 17-day ordeal. The hijackers shot and killed a passenger, U.S. Navy petty officer Robert Dean Stethem.
Last week, crew personnel of the airliner positively identified Hamadi as one of the hijackers when he was shown to them in a prison lineup, security sources said.
Also last week, the U.S. Senate, under the urging of D'Amato, adopted a resolution urging that West Germany hand Hamadi over for trial in the United States. D'Amato said then that "failure to extradite Hamadi will definitely harm West German-American relations."
Hamadi was arrested last January at Frankfurt airport after he was found to be carrying bottles of liquid explosives disguised as wine.
Sen. Alan J. Dixon (D-Ill.) said, according to Reuters, "I believe it is extremely important that Hamadi be tried--for murder, hijacking and hostage-taking--in the United States."
House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said the United States will be watching to see if there is a trial and whether "appropriate punishment" is imposed.
Hamadi's brother, Abbas, a naturalized West German, is also being held by West German police on suspicion of kidnaping.
Shortly after Hamadi's arrest, two West German businessmen, Rudolf Cordes and Alfred Schmidt, were kidnaped in Beirut and were presumably held as hostages to try to effect Hamadi's release.
Their kidnapers are believed to be members of the Shia Muslim extremist organization, Hezbollah (Party of God), which operates in the southern suburbs of Beirut.
Bonn government officials have said privately all along that they would not trade Hamadi in a straight deal for the two businessmen. But authorities did not rule out the possibility that Hamadi would receive a lighter sentence from the courts here than he would in the United States and perhaps also be given an early release after sentencing.
Informed observers here believe that the Bonn government may still be hoping to work out some kind of a deal involving Hamadi and the West Germany hostages.
Some authorities speculated that the Beirut kidnaping of Los Angeles-born journalist Charles Glass last week may have been connected with the Hamadi case, since Glass had covered the TWA hijacking in Beirut for ABC television and was a potential witness against Hamadi.
The charges against Hamadi in West Germany carry a possible life sentence. West Germany does not have the death penality.
Hamadi's trial is not expected to begin soon, but lawyers said it could start before the end of the year.