Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the Kuwaiti Airline Hijacking

December 11, 1984

We have received confirmation that the remains of the two murdered Americans departed Tehran for Frankfurt. The remains will be identified by U.S. military forensic specialists. After identification, tentative plans call for the bodies to be transported to Andrews AFB. I do not have an arrival time for you at this time.

Messrs. Kapar and Costa have been flown by a Kuwaiti aircraft to Kuwait, where they are being picked up by a USAF aircraft and will be transported to Frankfurt, West Germany. I understand they should be leaving Kuwait just about now, noon, December 11. A determination on their onward itinerary has not yet been made.

While we have not yet had a chance to fully debrief the survivors, many aspects of the Government of Iran's handling of this situation raise profound and disturbing questions to which we are seeking answers.

The fact of the matter is that two passengers were murdered by the hijackers, more were tortured, and many were brutalized for an extended period of time without any effective measures being taken by the Government of Iran. Granting selective media access, broadcasting statements and screams of tortured passengers, permitting photographers aboard the aircraft, clearly encouraged extreme behavior by the hijackers. The passengers, the families of the murdered passengers, and the world deserve answers from the Government of Iran.

Previous actions by the Government of Iran have shown that it has the capability to act rapidly and effectively to end hijackings when it so wishes. On this occasion, when the lives of innocent American, Kuwaiti, and other citizens were at stake, it did otherwise. Two U.S. Government employees were murdered. We will probably never know what would have happened had the Iranian Government acted more firmly.

Now that the hijackers are in its custody, the Government of Iran has very clear obligations. Under the Hague Convention for Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, to which Iran is a party, the Government of Iran has an obligation to submit the hijackers' case to prosecutorial authorities or to extradite them to another country for trial.

Iran's failure to try or extradite several previous groups of hijackers is clear evidence that it has not met its obligations and reinforced the impression that it is sympathetic to and provides a safe haven for hijackers.

The American attitude and actions toward the Government of Iran in the aftermath of this tragedy will be conditioned by whether it meets its obligations and by our assessment of its role during this tragic incident. We have been and will continue to watch Iranian actions closely.

Note: Larry M. Speakes read the statement to reporters in the Briefing Room at the White House during his daily briefing, which began at noon.