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Armed seige 10 guilty of hijack

PUBLISHED: 08:29 07 December 2001 | UPDATED: 10:59 03 March 2010

A GROUP of Afghan men who said they took over a plane to escape a Taliban death squad have been convicted of hijacking.

The armed siege at Stansted Airport that followed, and the two subsequent lengthy trials, are estimated to have cost taxpayers £12 million.

A GROUP of Afghan men who said they took over a plane to escape a Taliban death squad have been convicted of hijacking.

The armed siege at Stansted Airport that followed, and the two subsequent lengthy trials, are estimated to have cost taxpayers £12 million.

The nine men were part of a group who took over an Ariana Boeing 727 shortly after it took off from Kabul in February last year and ordered the captain at gunpoint to fly to Britain.

After landing at Stansted Airport, they threatened to kill passengers and blow up the plane during a three-day armed stand-off in which 200 flights were disrupted.

The men - who had been armed with four guns, a knife and two hand grenades - surrendered peacefully to police after demanding to talk to a United Nations representative.

They were found guilty on 10 to one majority verdicts of hijack and were unanimously found guilty of four further charges of false imprisonment of passengers and crew, possessing grenades and possessing firearms. The men were remanded in custody for sentencing on January 18.

Ali Safi, 38, Abdul Shohab, 21, Taimur Shah, 29, Kazim Mohammed, 28, Reshad Ahmadi, 19, Nazamuddin Mohammidy, 28, Abdul Ghayur, 25, Mohammed Showaib, 26, Mohammed Safi, 33, had pleaded not guilty, claiming they acted under duress.

A 10th man, Waheed Lutfi, 23, was found not guilty of similar charges and had been cleared of hijacking at the first trial. The jury was discharged from bringing back verdicts on five charges faced by an 11th man.

During the siege, the captain and air crew escaped onto the Tarmac through an open window in the cockpit and a steward was ejected down the steps.

Bruce Houlder QC, prosecuting, said the hijack by the Afghans, members of the Young Intellectuals of Afghanistan, appeared to have been prolonged to make a political point.

He added passengers had been used as a bargaining tool on board the plane where conditions deteriorated badly. "They went rather further in their demands than the simple saving of their lives," he said.

But Richard Ferguson, QC, defending Safi, told the jury at the Old Bailey in London: "This was a desperate gamble taken by desperate men - flight or death. The choice was stark and simple - either you get out or you die.

"The evil shadow of the Taliban hangs over this case. They were the most evil administration since the Nazis."

The leader of the group, Safi, 38, a former university lecturer, told the court he had once been jailed by the Taliban for playing chess.

Of the 165 people on the plane, 74 - including the accused - have asked to remain in the UK. Nineteen applications have been granted and the others are going through appeals.

At the end of the siege, the then Home Secretary Jack Straw said the accused would not be allowed to remain in the UK, but would eventually be deported to a third country.

The judge had imposed the ban on reporting the verdicts pending the outcome of legal proceedings involving an 11th man.

But he telephoned court officials yesterday to say he had "changed his mind" and wanted a contempt of court order to be lifted.


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