Cuban hijacker of US plane from 1968 pleads guilty in NY court

A fugitive who avoided prosecution for more than four decades after hijacking a Pan American flight in 1968 and diverting it to Cuba pleaded guilty.

Cuban hijacker of US plane from 1968 pleads guilty in NY court

A fugitive who avoided prosecution for more than four decades after hijacking a Pan American flight in 1968 and diverting it to Cuba pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges including kidnapping and aircraft piracy.

Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 67, admitted to boarding the Puerto Rico-bound plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with a pistol and a pocketknife and threatening the flight crew.

Soltren, a U.S. citizen who lived in Cuba for 41 years, returned voluntarily to New York last October to surrender to federal authorities and originally pleaded not guilty.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said at the time of his arrest the Cuban government had authorized Soltren's departure.

"On November 24, 1968, I participated in a conspiracy to kidnap an airplane headed to Havana, Cuba," Soltren told U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein on Thursday through a Spanish interpreter.

Pena Soltren, a U.S. citizen born in Puerto Rico, is believed to have left Cuba to follow his wife to the United States. She had lived with him in Cuba and came to America several year ago, his lawyer has said.

In the hijacking, Pena Soltren said he held a small pocketknife up to the neck of a stewardess and also held a gun. The gun had been loaded with the incorrect ammunition and could not be fired, but the flight crew and passengers were unaware of that, he said in court.

Soltren, who appeared in court wearing a brown T-shirt under blue prison clothing, did not express remorse for the incident. He faces a maximum sentence of more than 27 years when he is sentenced in June.

Details of the plea deal and what reduction in sentence he might receive were not immediately available.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, dozens of U.S. planes were hijacked to Cuba as the Cold War with Cuban leader Fidel Castro intensified. Some hijacked the planes to make political statements, while others sought asylum in Cuba or ransom payments from the U.S. government.

Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 19 Mart 2010, 01:17
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