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A court convicted Mohammed Ali Hamadi Wednesday of air piracy and murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment in the 1985 TWA hijacking that left a U.S. Navy diver dead.

He received the maximum penalty under West German law.The three-judge District Court convicted the Lebanese Shiite Moslem for his role in the 17-day hijacking of 39 Americans and the brutal beating and shooting of Robert Dean Stethem of Waldorf, Md. Stethem's body was tossed from the plane onto the tarmac at Beirut Airport.

In a statement following the sentencing, Stethem's parents said Hamadi should have received the death penalty, which is not allowed under West German law. They also warned against any political deals that might free him early.

Hamadi, 24, admitted to taking part in the hijacking of Flight 847 from Athens to Rome but denied killing Stethem.

He looked straight ahead impassively as Chief Judge Heiner Mueckenberger read the verdict to a packed courtroom inside Frankfurt's fortress-like Preungesheim prison.

Mueckenberger said the court found Hamadi guilty of "joint participation in murder." By law, a defendant taking part in a serious crime may be convicted of murder even if he does not actually kill the victim.

"He was an active member of Hezbollah," the judge said, referring to the pro-Iranian Shiite Moslems believed holding foreign hostages in Lebanon.

The court also found Hamadi guilty on three counts of hostage-taking and inflicting grevious bodily harm, and two counts of smuggling explosives into West Germany.

Hamadi testified that the hijacking was intended to force the release of Lebanese Moslems imprisoned in Israel. Shortly after the ordeal, Israel released about 700 such prisoners.

Dozens of former passengers said Hamadi was one of two hijackers who brutally beat Stethem. He claimed his accomplice, who remains at large, pulled the trigger. Court records identified the accomplice as Hassan Ezzeddine.

Mueckenberger said that while the court could not determine whether Hamadi murdered Stethem, "the defendant played an active role in preparing and carrying it out."

After sentencing, Hamadi hung his head, then stared straight ahead.