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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 17:26 GMT
Afghans guilty of Stansted hijack
Police prepare to search hijacked plane
The hijack ended after a three-day stand-off
Nine Afghan men have been convicted of hijacking a plane which landed at Stansted Airport in Essex.

The men were convicted at the Old Bailey on Wednesday, but reporting restrictions were only lifted on Thursday.

Ali Safi, 38, Abdul Shohab, 21, Taimur Shah, 29, Kazim Mohammed, 28, Reshad Ahmadi, 19, Nazamuddin Mohammidy, 28, Abdul Ghayur, 25, Mohammed Showaib, 26, Mohammed Safi, 33, had pleaded not guilty, saying they acted under duress.

The evil shadow of the Taleban hangs over this case - they were the most evil administration since the Nazis

Richard Fergusson QC
The men - who said they had been trying to escape a Taleban death squad - were found guilty by 10 to one majorities.

They are being held in custody pending reports prior to sentencing.

The men were unanimously found guilty of four further charges of false imprisonment of passengers and crew, and possessing grenades and firearms.

A 10th man, Waheed Lutfi, 23, was found not guilty of hijacking at the first trial and cleared of remaining charges on Wednesday.

Dissident group

The jury was discharged from bringing back verdicts on five charges faced by an eleventh man.

The Afghans, members of the Young Intellectuals of Afghanistan, first faced trial in January but a jury could not agree on verdicts.

The Afghan Ariana Boeing 727 was hijacked by armed men during an internal flight in Afghanistan in February last year.

They went rather further in their demands than the simple saving of their lives

Bruce Houlder QC
The plane landed in Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Moscow before eventually heading for Britain.

The pilot was forced at gunpoint to Stansted where the hijackers threatened to kill passengers and blow up the plane.

They gave themselves up after a record three-day stand-off during which 200 flights were disrupted.

Richard Fergusson QC, for one of the defendants, said the hijack had been a "desperate gamble" by desperate men.

"The choice was stark and simple - either you get out or you die.

Political point

"The evil shadow of the Taleban hangs over this case. They were the most evil administration since the Nazis."

But Bruce Houlder QC, prosecuting, said the hijack appeared to have been prolonged in order to make a political point.

He pointed out that the hijackers had not surrendered on landing, had threatened to blow up the plane and kill passengers and had attacked cabin crew.

"They went rather further in their demands than the simple saving of their lives."

Asylum claims

The judge in the second trial warned the jury against prejudice to Muslims, and excused a man who said work colleagues had witnessed the airliners hitting the World Trade Center.

During the trial, the 12th juror was discharged and excused from jury service for life after failing to turn up for the second Monday running.

After the hijack ended, 74 of the 165 people on the plane, including some of those originally accused asked to remain in the UK.

Nineteen applications have been granted and the others are going through appeals.

At the end of the siege, the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said the accused would not be allowed to remain in the UK but would eventually be deported to a third country.

The BBC's Andy Tighe
looks back at the hijacking
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt
"This was a hijacking unlike any other"
The BBC's John Andrew
"They did not even intend to come to the UK"
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