Palestinian Woman Convicted in 1977 Lufthansa Hijacking
Nov. 20, 1996
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ A court convicted a Palestinian woman of murder and kidnapping Tuesday, saying she ``acted with special brutality'' in the 1977 hijacking of a German airliner that ended in a shootout at a Somalia airport.
The court sentenced Suhaila al-Sayeh, one of four members of a Palestinian group that commandeered the Lufthansa airliner, to 12 years in prison. She was extradited to Germany last year after 17 years on the run.
The 43-year-old Al-Sayeh insisted at the start of the trial that she had no part in the killing of Lufthansa pilot Juergen Schumann during the six-day ordeal.
But the Hamburg State Supreme Court ruled that she had been an accomplice. ``The accused acted with special brutality,'' said presiding judge Albrecht Mentz.
When the leader of the hijackers shot Schumann in the face for taking too long to inspect the plane's landing gear during a stopover in South Yemen, Mentz said, al-Sayeh and the other hijackers laughed.
``All four hijackers had agreed that Schumann was to be killed,'' the judge said.
The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine members commandeered the jet after it took off from Mallorca, Spain, in an effort to force the release of imprisoned group members and left-wing terrorists from Germany's Red Army Faction.
They threatened to kill all 83 passengers and the remaining four crew members.
Anti-terror commandos with Germany's Federal Border Police stormed the Lufthansa plane on Oct. 18, 1977, in Mogadishu, Somalia, freeing the 87 hostages.
During al-Sayeh's trial, a former crew member testified that at one point during the hijacking, she threatened to pour gasoline onto the co-pilot and set him on fire.
Mentz noted, however, that unlike her accomplices, al-Sayeh laid down her gun and two hand grenades when the commandos arrived.
Al-Sayeh was the only hijacker to survive the gunfight. She was wounded by a bullet, as were two German sharpshooters.
She served a short prison term in Somalia, then disappeared until she was arrested in 1994 in Oslo, Norway, where she had lived for about three years with her husband and young daughter under a new identity.