Witness Points Out Hamadi as Leader of TWA Hijacking
A U.S. Army reservist who was savagely beaten during the hijacking of a TWA airliner in 1985 testified Friday that Lebanese defendant Mohammed Ali Hamadi led the terrorist operation in which a Navy diver was killed.
“It was very apparent to me that Hamadi was in charge” during the 17-day ordeal, Kurt L. Carlson, 41, told a court here. “I assumed he was in charge because he gave the orders.”
Hamadi admitted in court in August that he helped hijack TWA Flight 847 to Beirut on June 14, 1985, to force the release of Shia Muslims held in Israel, but he blamed the murder of U.S. Navy diver Robert D. Stethem on an accomplice who is not in custody.
Hamadi, who may be sentenced to life in prison if convicted, is charged with air piracy and murder in Frankfurt, where he was arrested in January, 1987, as he carried explosives into West Germany after a flight from Beirut.
Carlson, of Rockford, Ill., told the court that he was returning from a reserve assignment in Cairo when the plane was seized and that he tried to conceal his identity as a military man. But Hamadi found his military passport in a search of clothing and segregated him and other servicemen, including Stethem, from the other passengers.
After the plane landed in Algiers, Carlson said he was marched into the cockpit at gunpoint by Hamadi.
Carlson said Hamadi and an 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 L. Testrake, begged the control tower via radio to refuel the commandeered Boeing 727.
As the two-hour beating progressed, Carlson said Hamadi kept setting deadlines for his execution and then extending them when the fuel failed to arrive.
After passing out, Carlson said, he regained consciousness and was being tended by flight attendant Uli Derickson when Hamadi came over and apologized.
“ ‘Love you, meant not to kill you,’ ” Carlson quoted Hamadi as telling him in English. “Hamadi said he too had a wife and a baby girl. They had been killed during the American bombing of Beirut.”