560. 3/19/2003

“The suspects in the earlier successful hijack were charged with conspiracy to seize an aircraft by force and violence and face a minimum of up to 20 years in federal prison. They were granted bond, but remain behind bars because they have been unable to come up with the money. Cuban authorities were pleased that American officials decided to charge the six but were enraged last week when a federal judge decided to set bond over the objections of prosecutors. In the March 19 [2003] hijacking, six crew members and 25 passengers were on a twin-engine Douglas DC-3 on the same route when knife-wielding hijackers took control of the plane as it descended toward Havana after a trip from the Isle of Youth. They diverted the plane to Key West. Sixteen of those aboard later opted to return to Cuba and the only non-Cuban on the flight, an Italian, was released in the United States. The rest of the passengers and crew members on that earlier flight opted to stay in the United States under a U.S. immigration policy that allows Cubans who reach American soil to stay and seek legal residency after a year.”

“Hijacker surrenders in Key West; 32 aboard Cuban airliner safe,” The South Florida Sun Sentinel, April 1, 2003

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