The arrest in Greece of a Lebanese man accused of involvement in the June 1985 TWA hijack of a flight from Athens to Rome is a case of mistaken identity.
The man was accused of being linked to the hijack of a TWA flight with 153 passengers 34-years ago; the plane originated from Cairo and was bound to San Diego via Athens, Rome, Boston, and Los Angeles. The mean had been arrested in Mykonos.
The Lebanese man is identified by the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Mohammad Saleh, a journalist. However, Greek media leaked information that the man was believed to be Mohammed Ali Hammadi, previously captured in Germany for a 1987 kidnapping. At the time, Hammadi was arrested and sentenced to life but paroled in 2005 and returned to Lebanon.
Greek authorities asked their German counterparts to corroborate his recognition while the suspect always denied being Hammadi. Indeed, on Monday evening German authorities confirm this was the case of mistaken identity, as there were no fingerprints or DNA evidence that would link the suspect to the hijacked plane.
The Lebanese journalist is now on the Greek island of Syros, resting, in a curtsy extended by police authorities. The man was arrested last Thursday, as he disembarked on the island of Syros and arrested during a routine check as the crew disembarked. There, the man was mistakenly identified as a man for whom there was a pending European arrest Warrant.
The TWA flight 847 hijacking is believed to have been linked to Hezbollah. The hijackers had asked for the release of Lebanese Shia militants held in captivity in Israel to be released, in exchange for the release of over 100 hostages held onboard for two weeks. The 153 passengers of the TWA flight were gradually released by the hijackers, except the 23-year old US Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, who was killed and abandoned at the airport in Beirut before they escaped. Hammadi and his accomplices Hasan Izz Al-Din and Ali Atwa remain on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list. Another suspect, Imad Mughniyeh, was killed during a 2008 bombing in Damascus.