Judge Rules Suspected Hijacker Can Be Held 15 Days
EILAT, Israel (AP) _ The Iranian flight attendant who hijacked a passenger plane to Israel with 175 people aboard said Thursday he was desperate to flee Iran’s repressive government.
``I believe the people of Iran do not deserve to be in such an oppressed situation,″ said Reza Jabari, 29. ``I wanted to make it public and announce it to the world.
``I had no intention of harming the passengers or the crew,″ Jabari said in an interview with The Associated Press at the Eilat police station.
Iran, meanwhile, stepped up its accusations that Israel had colluded with the hijacker from the start, a charge Israeli officials denied.
Jabari appeared Thursday in Eilat Magistrate’s Court, where Judge Shlomo Bar Eli ruled he could be held for up to 15 days while authorities investigated him on charges of air piracy, hijacking, weapons possession and infiltration.
The Iranian plane was hijacked Tuesday morning during a flight from Tehran to the Persian Gulf resort island of Kish. It was returned to Tehran on Wednesday with 174 passengers and crew, including some passengers who witnesses said had asked for asylum.
It was not immediately clear why the passengers had been denied asylum.
Iran’s Parliament speaker, Ali Akbar Nateq Nouri, was quoted on state-run Tehran radio as saying the delay in returning the plane and the refusal to extradite the hijacker demonstrated ``the Zionist regime’s terrorist nature.″
He also protested Israel’s interrogation of the passengers.
The captain of the plane, whose name was not given, suggested in a radio interview that the Israelis had advance knowledge of the hijacker’s arrival, noting the flight attendant ``immediately decided on going to Israel, which was strange to me.″
Jabari denied having any contact with Israel before the hijacking, but said he had intended from the outset to reach the Jewish state.
Israeli government spokesman Uri Dromi called the suggestion that Israel had conspired with the hijacker ``nonsense.″
``The plane asked for permission first to land in Saudi Arabia and Jordan and was refused,″ he said. ``We got a request from the pilot who said he was out of fuel, and for humanitarian reasons we let the plane land.″
Bar Eli said Jabari fired his pistol into the air during the hijacking ``to show that he was serious.″ Jabari surrendered to Israeli police shortly after the plane landed at Ovda Air Force Base in the southern Negev desert, about 18 miles north of Eilat.
The Iranian said little in answer to reporters’ questions. When asked if he wanted to go back to Iran, he looked as if he might cry.
``He’s a good guy,″ said police investigator Eli Monsonego. ``He’s nice.″
Jabari told the AP he was worried the Iranian authorities would try and hurt the mother, three brothers and sister he left behind.
Told Thursday that he was being held so police and other authorities could conduct further investigations, Jabari asked nervously, ``Only Israeli authorities?″
``Only Israeli authorities,″ the judge reassured him.
Despite reports he has asked for political asylum, Jabari said he has not yet decided if he wants to stay in Israel.