‘Beaten So Hard I Prayed to Die,’ TWA Hostage Says : Hamadi Led Hijacking, Court Told
An American who was tortured and held hostage on a TWA jet testified today that Mohammed Ali Hamadi led the hijacking, shouted “One American must die!” and beat him so hard with an iron bar that he prayed for death.
Kurt Carlson, 41, of Rockford, Ill., said that at one point in the June, 1985, hijacking, Hamadi tied him up and gave him 15 minutes to live.
Hamadi, arrested at Frankfurt airport in 1987 after explosives were discovered in his luggage, is on trial on charges of air piracy and murder.
Hamadi admitted to the court in August that he helped hijack the Trans World Airlines flight on June 14, 1985. But the defendant blamed an accomplice, who is still at large, for the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem two days after the 17-day siege began.
Hamadi has refused to name his accomplice, but prosecutors have identified him as Hassan Ezzeddine.
‘American Must Die’
Carlson testified in a heavily guarded Frankfurt courtroom that Hamadi beat him with an iron bar and left him for dead.
“I prayed to God that he would take my life before the hijacker came back to shoot me,” Carlson said. “It was very apparent to me from the beginning that Hamadi was in charge. I assumed he was in charge since he gave the orders.”
Carlson said that the first words by the hijackers after they seized TWA Flight 847 in June, 1985, were: “Americans die, come to die,” and that Hamadi often repeated, “One American must die.”
Carlson said he was returning to the United States from a week of reserve military duty in Egypt when the TWA plane was hijacked on a flight from Athens to Rome.
Carlson said that he at first tried to conceal his identity as a military man but that one hijacker, whom he identified as Hamadi, found his red military passport in a search of clothing.
After the hijacked plane landed in Algiers, Carlson said he was marched into the cockpit at gunpoint by Hamadi. The reserve officer said that he was blindfolded with a handkerchief that smelled of vomit and that his hands were bound tightly behind his back.
Kicked and Beaten
Carlson said Hamadi and the accomplice took turns kicking him and beating him on the back and head with a metal stave ripped from a cockpit seat while the pilot, John Testrake, begged the tower via radio to refuel the commandeered Boeing 727.
Carlson said he was being beaten so that his screams of agony could dramatize the demand for fuel.
He said he had mentally assigned the names “Hitler” for Hamadi and “Crazy” for his tall, wild-eyed, silent accomplice.
In an attempt to get the plane refueled, Carlson said, Hamadi “set a deadline for my life. Fifteen minutes.”
Hamadi several times extended the deadline, Carlson said.
“Suddenly I heard him scream, ‘Marine!’ and I felt a metal bar come down on my head twice. I knew that third blow would be the death blow, because I heard him climb on a console.”
‘Kicked Me in the Jaw’
Carlson said he managed to roll slightly on the floor and did not take the full force of the blow.
“Hamadi then kicked me in the jaw to see if I was alive.”
Carlson said Hamadi dragged him to the front passenger’s door, opened the door, “and with the gun at my head, extended the deadline for another 10 minutes.”
He added that he “prayed to God” to take his life and “then I blacked out.”
Carlson said that after the hijacking was over, stewardess Uli Derickson told him that after the deadline passed, “Hamadi came back to kill me, but both she and Hamadi thought I was already dead.”
Stethem was killed, and his body was thrown onto the runway when the plane landed for a second time in Beirut.