An Ethiopian Airlines plane landed at Geneva Airport Monday morning after having been hijacked by the co-pilot. All passengers disembarked safely and the hijacker was arrested, according to Swiss police.
Ethiopian Airlines said in a statement that one of its flights had been "forced to proceed" to Geneva, adding that all passengers and crew were safe at the airport.
The co-pilot of the plane hijacked it while the pilot was taking a bathroom break, according to an airport spokesman, and took the opportunity to lock himself in the cockpit and take control of the plane. The Ethiopian hijacker, who was born in 1983, had wanted to be granted asylum in Switzerland. He exited the cockpit window using a rope and gave himself up to police, announcing that he was the hijacker.
Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 was headed from Addis Ababa to Rome and was to have landed in Rome at 4:40 a.m. The hijacking took place over southern Italian airspace. Two Italian fighter jets were scrambled to accompany the plane.
After landing the plane, the co-pilot exited the cockpit through a window and did not resist arrest, according to airport authorities.
Passengers were seen leaving the plane with their hands over their heads and escorted to waiting vehicles.
Ethiopian Airlines is owned by the Ethiopian government, which has long faced criticism over its human rights record. According to Federal Migration Office statistics, 843 Ethiopians were in the process of seeking asylum in Switzerland in 2013, and 246 new applications for asylum from Ethiopia were submitted last year.
Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot told a press conference that Swiss federal authorities were investigating the hijacking and would press charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.
Flight arrivals and departures were halted at Geneva Airport after the hijacked airliner landed at around 6 a.m. local time and numerous flights were re-routed or cancelled. Arrivals and departures have since resumed.
swissinfo.ch and agencies