updated 12/20/2005 9:55:49 AM ET 2005-12-20T14:55:49

German authorities have paroled convicted terrorist Mohammed Ali Hamadi after he served 19 years of a life sentence for the 1985 hijacking of a TWA jetliner and the killing of a U.S. Navy diver, a law enforcement official said Tuesday.

Hamadi has been released from prison and has left Germany, said Doris Moeller-Scheu, a spokeswoman for the Frankfurt prosecutor's office. She said she did not know his destination.

She said Hamadi's case came up for a regular legally mandated review by a parole court and he was released from a prison in Schwalmstadt in southwestern Germany after an expert assessment and a hearing.

TWA flight 847 from Athens to Rome was hijacked on June 14, 1985, to Beirut, where the hijackers shot U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem, 23, of Waldorf, Maryland, and dumped his body on the tarmac.

Witnesses later identified Hamadi as having beaten the tied-up Stethem and the plane's flight engineer later testified at the 1989 trial that Hamadi bragged he had killed the diver.

Stethem's parents later sued Iran in U.S. federal courts, saying that Iran had given support to the hijackers, believed to be from the Hezbollah group.

No current U.S. extradition request
German federal officials declined to comment extensively and said the case was a matter for state authorities. Justice Ministry spokeswoman Eva Schmierer said Germany did not have any request from the United States for Hamadi's extradition.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Martin Jaeger, said there was no connection between his release and that of Susanne Osthoff, a German woman released at the weekend after spending more than three weeks as a hostage in Iraq.

Stethem, 23, was severely beaten during the hijacking and shot on June 15, while the plane was in Beirut.

He was the only fatality during the ordeal, in which 39 Americans were held hostage for 17 days. He received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart decorations posthumously, and a U.S. Navy guided missile destroyer is named in his honor.

Hamadi was arrested at the Frankfurt airport on Jan. 13, 1987, when customs officials discovered liquid explosives in his luggage.

U.S. authorities had requested his extradition so he could stand trial in the United States, but the Germans, who have no death penalty, insisted on prosecuting Hamadi.

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