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US ex-fugitive pleads guilty to 1968 Pan Am hijacking

Last Updated: Friday, March 19, 2010 - 10:11

New York: A US citizen accused of hijacking a plane to communist Cuba four decades ago pleaded guilty on Thursday in New York.

Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 67, pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit air piracy, interfering with crew members and kidnapping during the 1968 attack on PanAm flight 281 out of New York.

He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison, the prosecutor`s office said. Sentencing was set for June 29.

Pena Soltren returned home from Cuba voluntarily last October, reportedly due to the desire to see his family, and was immediately taken into custody.

The plane was bound for Puerto Rico when Pena Soltren and two others used pistols and knives to terrify the crew into submission and divert the flight to Havana.

The hijacking was part of an epidemic of air piracy in the 1960s, with dozens of US flights seized by hardline leftists or escaped criminals -- a number of whom are believed still to be at large in the isolated Caribbean state.

Pena Soltren`s accomplices were apprehended in 1975 and 1976 and sentenced to 15 and 12 years in prison.

"This guilty plea affirms that the pursuit of justice is tempered neither by distance nor the passage of time," said US Attorney Preet Bharara.


First Published: Friday, March 19, 2010 - 10:11
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