Germany frees killer of U.S. diver
By CNN Correspondent Chris Burns
Hammadi was convicted in 1989.
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BERLIN, Germany (CNN) -- A Hezbollah militant sentenced to life in Germany for murdering a U.S. Navy diver during the 1985 hijacking of a U.S. jetliner has been freed, officials said.
The German government denied on Tuesday the release was related to the freeing of a German hostage in Iraq.
Mohammed Ali Hamadi was released Thursday and allowed to return to his native Lebanon on the next day, after qualifying for parole after 19 years in prison, said Ulrich Hermanski, spokesman for the North Rhine Wesphalia state justice ministry.
"There was no special treatment," Hermanski said in a telephone interview.
The decision was a state, not federal one, said federal Justice Ministry spokeswoman Eva Schmierer told a news conference.
"The federal government has nothing to do with it," she said. She denied reports the U.S. government had an extradition request for Hamadi.
Hamadi was convicted in 1989 in Frankfurt, Hessen state, for the beating and shooting of Robert Dean Stethem, a 23-year-old U.S. Navy diver whose body was thrown on the tarmac at Beirut airport during the hijacking of TWA Flight 847.
The U.S. Navy has named one of its ships after Stethem, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
The German government also denied there was any link between Hamadi's release and the freeing of Suzanne Osthoff, a German archaeologist, in Iraq last week.
"There is no relation between the release of Hamadi and the release of Osthoff," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Jaeger told the news conference.
Asked about the timing of Hamadi's release just weeks before Chancellor Angela Merkel's first trip to Washington, and whether it would hurt relations with the United States, her spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm declined immediate comment.
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