Greek police admitted on Tuesday that the arrest of a Lebanese man on suspicion of participating in the hijacking of a TWA flight in 1985 happened as a result of mistaken identity.
The 65-year-old man is now planning to return to his country on Tuesday after the Greek police said no charges will be filed following his arrest on September 19.
The man was arrested last week on the Greek island of Mykonos, where he had gone ashore during a cruise. The name on his passport came up on a European police computer system as that of a man wanted by Germany for the hijacking, during which an American, Robert Stethem, was killed.
The police statement said that German authorities were unable to identify the suspect and they finally admitted on Monday afternoon that they wouldn’t be seeking his extradition because he was not the actual fugitive they had believed him to be.
Greek authorities never released the name of the arrested man, but the Lebanese Foreign Ministry has said he is actually a Lebanese journalist called Mohammed Saleh.
The 1985 hijacking took place as the plane was making its way from Cairo to San Diego, with stops in Athens, Rome, Boston, and Los Angeles. The aircraft was hijacked after it took off from Athens.
Over the span of 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.
On June 15, during the first stop in Beirut, 23-year-old US Navy diver Robert Stethem was severely beaten and then shot in the head at point-blank range. His body was subsequently thrown onto the tarmac of the Beirut airport.