Hamadi ‘Joyfully Pointed’ to Blood, Engineer Testifies
The flight engineer of a TWA jet hijacked in 1985 testified today that Mohammed Ali Hamadi “joyfully pointed” to the blood of a murdered U.S. hostage and indicated that his death was a great victory for the hijackers’ cause.
Flight engineer Benjamin Zimmermann said the hijackers beat him and passengers after the Athens-to-Rome flight was seized June 14, 1985. He said he was kicked and pistol-whipped.
“I would be hit on the side of the head with the gun butt. When I would bend forward the blows would go down my back,” Zimmermann testified.
The Arab hijackers forced the jetliner to fly to Beirut and held 39 Americans hostage for 17 days. U.S. Navy diver Robert D. Stethem was shot and killed during the ordeal. During the hijacking, the jet flew first to Beirut, then to Algeria, and then back to Beirut.
Hamadi, a Lebanese Shia Muslim, is on trial on charges of air piracy and murder. He has denied pulling the trigger on Stethem.
Zimmermann, of Cascade, Ida., said Hamadi proudly pointed to Stethem’s blood on the jet’s fuselage as he and Hamadi walked around the plane when it landed in Algiers from Beirut.
“When we went around the front, the nose of the airplane, Mr. Hamadi joyfully pointed to the blood running down the door. And with the pistol he pointed--he indicated--he was very proud of this gun and of him having caused this,” Zimmermann testified.
“He seemed to be demonstrating that he was capable of being a worthy soldier of the cause for some revolution,” Zimmermann added.
Zimmermann said the flight crew tried to keep the plane in Algiers as long as possible. He said that as part of a stalling action, he and Hamadi left the plane to inspect the engines.
“Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything wrong with the airplane, at least nothing noticeable to Mr. Hamadi,” Zimmermann said.
Zimmermann said he was stunned by Hamadi’s behavior as they observed the blood.
“I wondered how he expected me to respond to him. It was as if he wanted congratulations. It seemed to be a great moment to him, what that blood represented to him,” Zimmermann said.