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Judge Rules Suspected Hijacker Can Be Held 15 Days

September 21, 1995

EILAT, Israel (AP) _ An Iranian flight attendant accused of hijacking a passenger plane to Israel told a judge today he was ``mentally suffering a lot″ and repeated his request for political asylum.

Reza Jabari, 29, appeared in Eilat Magistrate’s Court, where Judge Shlomo Bar Eli ruled he could be held for up to 15 days while authorities investigated charges of air piracy, hijacking, weapons possession and infiltration.

Bar Eli said Jabari had admitted hijacking the Kish Air Boeing 707 at gunpoint on Tuesday ``because he wanted to run away from Iran and because of the attitude of the regime against the people.″

The plane was returned to Tehran on Wednesday with 174 passengers and crew, including five passengers who had reportedly asked for asylum.

Jabari, speaking through a translator, told the judge that he had asked for political asylum. The judge said no decision had been made.

Jabari said he ``never had any intention of harming anyone.″

``Because of the trauma of all this experience, and with me being alone with nothing, no information or books, in such a situation, I am mentally suffering a lot,″ he said.

The judge told Jabari that he would try to get him Iranian newspapers and books to read.

Jabari said little in answer to reporters’ questions, explaining that his English was not good enough. When asked if he wanted to go back to Iran, he looked as if he might cry.

The Iranian plane was hijacked Tuesday during a flight from Tehran to the Persian Gulf resort island of Kish. Israel allowed it to land at Ovda Air Force Base in the southern Negev desert after the pilot said he was running out of fuel. The base is 18 miles north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat.

Israel released the plane despite pressure from the family of captured Israeli airman Ron Arad to use it as a bargaining chip. Israel holds Iran responsible for Arad’s fate. Israel rejected Iran’s demand to extradite the hijacker.

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