Ethiopian Airlines Co-Pilot Hijacks Plane, Seeks Swiss Asylum; Will Go To Prison Instead

Ethiopian Airlines Co-Pilot Hijacks Plane, Seeks Swiss Asylum; Will Go To Prison Instead

For a plan that culminated with a hijacked plane landing in Geneva, Switzerland, it was anything but a “Swiss watch” execution.

It all started when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET702 departed the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Sunday evening heading for Rome. The around 0330 GMT (10:30 PM EST Sunday) while over northern Italy, the plane’s second-in-command, who was not carrying a weapon, took control of the plane when the pilot left the cockpit to use the toilet. Shortly thereafter he himself sent a transponder code notifying ground control the plane had been hijacked (by him) with an  intention to land in Switzerland, where we would proceed to seek asylum, and after circling above Geneva for a while, the plane finally landed.

The plane erratic flight path was captured in the following snapshot:

After landing, he left the aircraft via a cockpit window, without harming passengers or crew, police spokesman Pierre Grangean told a news conference. It landed at Geneva at 6:02 a.m. (0502 GMT).

Reuters adds:

… the co-pilot, an Ethiopian born in 1983, locked the flight deck door when the pilot went to the toilet. He then asked to refuel at Geneva, landed the plane, climbed down on an emergency exit rope from a cockpit window, and gave himself up.

“There is … a code for hijack. So this co-pilot put in the code for ‘I just hijacked the aircraft‘,” he said. As the plane was over Italy at the time, two Italian Eurofighters were scrambled to accompany it, he said.

Ethiopian Airlines said in a short statement that the Boeing aircraft had been “forced to proceed” to Geneva.

State-run Ethiopian television said there were 193 passengers on board the Boeing aircraft, including 140 Italian nationals.

In an apparent recording of a radio communication between the Ethiopian plane and air traffic control posted on social media site Twitter, a demand for asylum was made.

“We need asylum or assurance we will not be transferred to the Ethiopian government,” the voice in the recording, apparently the co-pilot, said.

That would be the editorial “we.”

Once on the ground it was a typically Swiss clean up effort, with little drama or spillover: “Geneva airport was initially closed to other flights, but operations resumed around two hours after the hijacked plane landed. “We hope everything will return to normal in the afternoon,” Deillon said.”

As for the co-pilot original plan to seek asylum, what he may end up getting as part of the bargain is a 20 year prison sentence: “Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot said Swiss federal authorities were investigating the hijacking and would press charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.”

Well, the Swiss did make it clear a week ago that immigration into their country going forward would be more difficult. That said, we can’t wait for the jokes about the drastic measures one needs to take in order to enter Switzerland from this moment on.

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