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Swiss seek extradition of hijacker

Hussein Hariri being led away after being given a life sentence

(Keystone Archive)

Hussein Hariri, a Lebanese hijacker who escaped from jail in Switzerland, has been recaptured in Morocco after three months on the run.

The Swiss authorities said they would be seeking to extradite Hariri. They have also launched an inquiry into the possiblity that he had an accomplice in his escape.

Hariri received a life sentence in 1989 for killing a passenger and seriously wounding a flight attendant during the hijacking of an Air Afrique flight to Geneva in July 1987.

But he failed to return to his cell at the Plaine de l'Orbe jail in canton Vaud in western Switzerland in September 2002. He had been granted weekend leave in preparation for his release on parole in 2004.

The Lebanese was arrested by Moroccan police on Monday with the help of Swiss investigators. Switzerland has requested his return.

Hansjürg Mark Wiedmer, spokesman for the Federal Prosecutor's Office, declined to say where Hariri was apprehended.

"We can't say exactly why he was in this country," said Wiedmer.

"We had evidence of his presence over there and the cooperation between the federal police and the Moroccan authorities worked very well," he added.

Search

The search for the 36-year-old Hariri was being carried out by both the canton of Geneva, responsible for his conviction, and the justice ministry, which has also launched a new inquiry against him for alleged criminal acts.

The authorities also suspect that Hariri had accomplices to his escape and have launched an inquiry.

In 1987, the then 21-year-old Hariri commandeered a DC-10 plane flying from Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo to Paris.

He demanded the release of Lebanese and Palestinians held by France, West Germany and Israel.

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

Swiss police eventually stormed the hijacked jet and arrested Hariri after crew-members overpowered him.

During his trial, he told the court he was a "soldier of God" and did not intend to kill.

He refused to testify about allegations that he was on a mission for the pro-Iranian Hezbollah group.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

23 July 1987: Hariri hijacks a plane on route from the Republic of Congo. He is overpowered and arrested after the plane refuels in Geneva. A passenger is killed and a crew member seriously injured.
24 February 1989: Hariri is sentenced to life imprisionment and is sent to a prison in canton Vaud.
1992: He and four other inmates overpowered prison guards, seized a truck and drove it through a fence around the prison. He was recaptured a week later.
8 September 2002: Hariri fails to return to prison after weekend leave, granted in preparation for parole in 2004.

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