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Last Updated: Friday, 11 April, 2003, 22:57 GMT 23:57 UK
Cuba ferry hijackers executed
Hijacked ferry
The hijacking eventually ended with no one hurt

Three members of a gang who hijacked a Cuban ferry last week have been executed, the Cuban authorities say.

The men went on trial on Tuesday for "very grave acts of terrorism," and were convicted and died at dawn on Friday, an official statement broadcast on state television said.

The men faced Cuba's usual method of execution - the firing squad - after their final appeals failed, it said.

Another four men were given life sentences, and three women were given terms of one to five years.

There have been several high-profile hijackings recently by Cubans trying to get to the United States.

The Cuban Government said it had averted another hijacking attempt on Friday, when several armed men planning to storm a plane were arrested in an airport car park on Cuba's Isle of Youth.

Two-day standoff

Eight or 10 hijackers, armed with a handgun and knives, hijacked the boat in Havana Bay on 2 April and set a course for Florida, taking about 50 passengers with them.

The boat ran out of fuel half-way in international waters and there was a two-day standoff before the hijackers agreed to return for refuelling.

It was then escorted back to the Cuban port of Mariel by coast guard patrol boats.

The authorities regained control after hostages began jumping overboard.

No one was hurt.

The Cuban Government is bitterly resentful that Cubans who reach US soil are often granted residency.

Cuba-US relations have also been severely strained by long jail sentences recently handed down to 75 Cuban dissidents - a move also criticised by many governments and human rights groups.

With some Cubans showing an increasing willingness to resort to violence to escape, Fidel Castro's Government is sending its own message back, says our correspondent Stephen Gibb: Those that are caught will face the most severe consequences.

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