A judge hearing the trial of accused kidnaper Abbas Ali Hamadi declared Wednesday that his court will not be intimidated by threats from a militant group in Beirut that is holding a West German businessman hostage.
On the second day of Hamadi's trial in a Duesseldorf courtroom, Judge Klaus Arend spoke out in response to a written threat from the group. At the same time, West German authorities stepped up security at airports that might be targeted by terrorists.
Arend, head of the five-member panel of judges hearing the Hamadi trial, said the court had received a letter from a group of radical Shia Muslims, the so-called Freedom Strugglers, warning that the German authorities should "be careful in what they do" to Hamadi.
"Nothing like this has ever happened in a German court," Arend said. "The kidnapers in Beirut misjudge the situation if they think that they can influence ongoing proceedings. We would lose our self-esteem if we allowed ourselves to be influenced. . . ."
He said the court will not be influenced even by pressure from the West German government.
As for what might happen after the trial, he said: "It is another question if, in the event of conviction, the state takes steps to secure a favorable solution. But that is not a matter for a court to decide."
There have been persistent rumors, denied by the authorities, that Bonn might exchange a convicted Hamadi for the businessman hostage.
Suspect in TWA Hijacking
The Lebanese-born Hamadi, 29, a naturalized West German, is charged with assisting in the abduction of two German businessmen in Beirut shortly after his brother, Mohammed Ali Hamadi, was arrested at the Frankfurt airport.
Mohammed Hamadi is a leading suspect in the hijacking of a Trans World Airlines jetliner from Athens to Beirut in 1985. In the course of that incident, a U.S. Navy diver was shot to death by the hijackers.
The West German government turned down a U.S. request that he be extradited to stand trial in the United States, and he is now waiting to be tried here on charges of murder and air piracy.
The prosecution says that Abbas Hamadi, after his brother's arrest, helped abduct the two businessmen, Alfred Schmidt and Rudolf Cordes, in West Beirut, to be used as bargaining chips for Mohammed Hamadi. Schmidt was freed in September, for reasons that have not been made public.
Through his lawyer, Abbas Hamadi denied Tuesday that he was involved in the kidnapings, and on Wednesday he repeated his appeal to the Beirut abductors to release Cordes "in the name of humanity and West Germany.".
The lawyer, Eckart Hild, said the kidnapers' letter will have a negative effect by turning the court against Hamadi.
He said Hamadi fears that by appearing in court, he will be considered an informer by his friends in Lebanon.
"My client is no traitor and no agent of the U.S. secret services," Hild said.