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Greek Police Release Lebanese 'Hijacking' Suspect in Case of Mistaken Identity

Greek Police Release Lebanese 'Hijacking' Suspect in Case of Mistaken Identity

Monday, 23 September, 2019 - 17:15
TWA Boeing 727 captain John Testrake (left) in the cockpit of the hijacked airliner at Beirut airport while a masked gunman leaves the plane while holding a machine gun. (Getty Images)

Greek police have released a 65-year-old Lebanese man held in connection with a 1985 hijacking, saying on Tuesday it appeared to be a case of mistaken identity with a person wanted by German authorities.


The man was arrested on September 19 when his name came up as being wanted by German authorities during a passport check on the island of Mykonos. An EU database had identified a person matching the name of the individual as being wanted by Germany in a terror-related case.


Greek police had said that case was a 1985 hijacking connected to the hijacking of a TWA 847 flight, and an abduction two years later.


However, other than a name there was no further proof of identification from German authorities, police said in a statement.


Greece’s embassy in Lebanon in the meantime had furnished authorities with documentation citing a Lebanese official as saying the detainee was a respected journalist whose name happened to be identical to that of the wanted man, police said.


“In the afternoon hours (of Monday) we were informed by German authorities that the relevant German prosecution authorities will not seek the extradition of the individual since his identification was not possible, and that he should be released,” police said.


The individual had since been released, police said.


TWA Flight 847 was travelling from Cairo to San Diego with stops in Athens, Rome, Boston and Los Angeles. It was hijacked on June 14, 1985 after it took off from Athens.


Over a horrific 17 days, TWA pilot John Testrake was forced to crisscross the Mediterranean with his 153 passengers and crew members, from Beirut to Algiers and back again, landing in Beirut three times before he was finally allowed to stop.


The hijackers' demands included the release of Shiite Muslims held by Israel.


On June 15, 1985 during the first stop in Beirut, one of the passengers, 23-year-old US Navy diver Robert Stethem, was severely beaten, shot point blank in the head and his body thrown onto the tarmac.


Greek media said the wanted man had been arrested in Germany two years after the hijacking but was later exchanged with two Germans who were abducted in Beirut. He has remained a fugitive ever since.


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