"Are you a hero?" asked the Hanafi Muslim.
"No," said the hostage.
"'Cause if you are, I'd just as soon kill you now as later."
The Hanafi was unwrapping the telephone wire that had bound the man's hands so that he could go to the bathroom. He noticed that the hostage's hands were swollen from having been bound so tightly.
He said he would not tie the man so tightly after he returned from the toilet. He asked the hostage if he had a family.
"Yes," said the hostage.
"Do you want to go home to your family?
"I'll never be able to go home to my family," the Hanafi said.
William C.Ferguson testified in D.C. Superior Court yesterday that this conversation took place between himself and Abdul Salaam, 31, also known as Clarence White, while Ferguson was being held hostage on the eighth floor of the international headquarters of B'nai B'rith, the Jewish service organization, from March 9 to March 11.
Ferguson, a computer programmer who was working on contact at B'nai B'rith, described his meeting with Sallam in answer to questions from Francis Smith, Salaam's defense attorney.
Smith asked Ferguson if he had seen Salaam strike any of the more than 100 hostages who were held at the B'nai B'rith building.
No, said Ferguson, he did not.But he added that another Hanafi, Abdul Latif, 34, also had noticed the swelling in Ferguson's hands.
During the last hour and a half of the 39 hours that he was held hostage, Ferguson told the jury, Latif took the telephone wire off his wrists and tied them with "a lady's handkerchief - a rather soft, silky material."
The witness said this eased the pain in his hands. Ferguson testified Monday that he still experiences a "tighling" sensation in the fingers of his left hand as a result of his experiende.
Salaam and Latif are two of 12 Hanafi Muslims on trial before Judge Nicholas S. Nunzio and a jury on charges of murder and kidnpaing in the takeover of the B'nai B'rith building at 1640 Rhode Island Ave. NW, the District Building at 14th and E Streets NW, and the Islamic Center at 2551 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
In indictment charges that the murder and the kidnapings and related offenses occurred in furtherance of a conspiracy by the Hanafis to compel federal officials to turn over to Hamass Abdhl Khaaiis, 55, acknowledged leader of the group, five Black Muslims convicted of murdering seven members of his family in January, 1973.
Another object of the conspiracy, the indictment charges, was the removal from this country of the film "Mohammad, Messenger of God."
The trial began May 31 with a leggthy jury-selection process. Testimony began last Thursday. Until yesterday, most of it focused on Khaalis and his alleged threats to behead his captives unless his demands were met.
By the end of yesterday, however, prosecution witnesses had begun to paint a picture of the allegedroles of Khaalis' codefendants.
Sidney M. Clearfield, * a social worker at B'nai B'rith, testified yesterday that Khaalis had threatened to have him castrated and beheaded "to show they meant business." He said Khallis had said he would throw his head out the window.
Alton W. Kirkland, 21, a member of the maintenance staff at B'nai B'rith, was stabbed twice during the siege and released on the afternoon of the first day of the incident because of his injuires.
Hanafi he had seen was Abdul Hamid, 22, also known as Hilvan Jude Finch, once a cnadidate for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. Kirkland said he came upon Hamid on the fifth floor of the building.
"This gup pointed a gun at me and I ran back up to the seventh floor, bedaues that's where the people I was working with was," Kirkland said.
Kirkland said he and a dozen other people locked themselves in a seventh-floor office. They heard shouts in the hallway, Kirkland said, and threats to break the door down.
"The door came flying in and this gunman came in," he said. "This man said, "Why didn't you open the door, my--- f---' I was so close to him I could reach out and touch his face with my hand."
Kirkland said the man who had burst in was Abdul Latif.
Then, Kirkland told the jury, an other man came up and said, "This must be the rabbit," meaning the person who had fled from the fifth floor. Kirkland said the second man to arrive told him to kick down a door to an inner office.
Kirkland said tht man who gave these orders was the same man he had first encountered on tht fifty floor, Abdul Hamid.
While he was kicking in the door, Kirkland said, a third Hanafi stabbed him.
"He stabbed me in the left thigh," Kirkland said. "When I grabbed my thigh, he stabbed me in the back. When I fell to the floor, I seen he had a knife. Then the guy kicked me in the rear a couple of times, put a gun to my head and said he would kill me."
Kirkland said this was Abdul Adam, 31, also known as George W.SSmith.
At that point, Kirkland said, Abdul Latif told Abdul Adam not to kill him. He said Latif identified himself as second in command of the operation.
At the close of yesterday's session, Judge Nunzio warned all attorneys that they must be on time when the trial resumes at 10 a.m. today. He said some had been late every day since the proceeding began.
But there was none of ht eheated excahnges between prosecution and defense attorneys that marked the opening days. Nunzio had a gavel in court for the first time yesterday and used it only twice.