Court Sentences Ethiopian Pilot Who Hijacked His Own Plane

Some people are desperate to leave the poverty or dangerous circumstances that they live in and do strange things to get away. In this case, a pilot in Ethiopia hijacked his own plane and flew it to Geneva in Switzerland, looking for a better life.

A court in Ethiopia on Friday sentenced the pilot to 19 years and six months in prison for his crime.

On February 17, 2014, 32-year-old Hailemedhin Abera Tegegn was acting as co-pilot on a flight to Rome in Italy. He apparently took control of the plane after the main pilot, an Italian, left for a toilet break. Tegegn sent out a coded signal announcing that he had hijacked his own plane.

He flew the aircraft to Geneva and when the Boeing landed on the tarmac, the unarmed pilot climbed down an emergency rope, surrendering to the Geneva police and claiming asylum, saying he did not feel safe in Ethiopia.

According to the Swiss police, none of the 193 passengers on the plane, who were mostly Europeans, were harmed in any way.

While there is no mention of the exact reason why Tegegn hijacked his own plane to escape from Ethiopia, around the time of the hijacking there were demonstrations held in Frankfurt, Germany and Oslo in Norway in support of the pilot.

Shimeles Kemal, an Ethiopian government spokesman, told Reuters that an extradition request had been refused by Switzerland and authorities in Geneva said that Tegegn would face charges in that country after his hijacked his own plane.

According to Kemal, on Monday last week, the Addis Ababa high court had issued a ruling on the pilot in abstentia.

“The court sentenced him to 19 years and six months in jail for the crime he committed.”

IOL notes that while Tegegn held what is considered to be a relatively well paid job with the Ethiopian airline, he was one thousands of people from both north and east Africa to flee to Europe each year to escape either political conflicts or poverty.

Reportedly, opposition politicians and campaigners for human rights in Ethiopia often accuse its government of stifling dissent, a charge which the government both ignores and rejects.

Despite the court ruling on Monday, it is at present unknown where the former pilot is located. However, officials have advised that, as a pilot, Tegegn had a visa which allows him to travel freely to and around Europe. It seems that after he hijacked his own plane to get to freedom, he may have accomplished his desired ends.

In other aircraft news, the Inquisitr notes that the search for pieces of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has probably been carried out in the wrong place.

[Image: Screengrab from YouTube video]