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Hijacker deported back to Lebanon

Hussein Hariri on his way to court in 1997 Keystone Archive

A Lebanese hijacker has been sent back to Lebanon after serving 17 years in a Swiss prison.

This content was published on October 17, 2004 - 14:58

Hussein Hariri was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1989 for the hijacking of an Air Afrique flight in which one person died and another was seriously injured.

The 38-year-old Hariri left Switzerland for Beirut on Tuesday on board a plane chartered by the Federal Refugee Office.

Confirming reports that had appeared in the Sunday press, spokesman Dominique Boillat said the flight left Zurich with 12 people on board, including two other Lebanese who had been living in Switzerland illegally.

Boillat said that the immediate deportation had taken place with Hariri’s agreement.

In 1987 the then 21-year-old Hariri commandeered a DC-10 plane flying from Brazzaville in the Democratic Republic of Congo to Paris and demanded the release of Lebanese and Palestinians held by France, West Germany and Israel.

But the plane had to land in Geneva for refuelling, where Hariri shot dead a 28-year-old Frenchman.

Swiss police eventually stormed the hijacked jet and arrested the Lebanese after crew-members overpowered him. A flight attendant was shot and seriously injured as he tackled Hariri.

Escape attempts

Hariri has been released after serving 17 years in jail in Switzerland, a time which was marked by two prison breakouts - one in 1992 with four other inmates and another solo bid in 2002.

He was recaptured on the second occasion in Morocco in December 2002 – after more than two months on the run. The Lebanese was extradited back to Switzerland in August 2003.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office announced at the beginning of October that it had suspended its inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Hariri's prison escape.

The office decided that there was not sufficient evidence to prove that he had been preparing a criminal act while on the run.

But it said it would be continuing its investigations into an alleged accomplice.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

July 1987: Hariri hijacks an Air Afrique plane. A person is killed and another seriously injured.
February 1989: Hariri is sentenced to life imprisonment
1992: First escape attempt.
September 2002: Second escape attempt. Recaptured in Morocco, later extradited to Switzerland.
October 2004: Hariri is freed and deported to Lebanon.

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