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Tuesday, 8 February, 2000, 12:41 GMT
Ex-hijackers wait for asylum

Stansted's 1996 hijack drama ended peacefully

All six members of the gang at the centre of Britain's last hijack drama are now living in the UK as asylum-seekers, the Home Office has confirmed.

Their applications for refuge are among the backlog of 100,000 cases currently being considered by the Immigration Service.

The gang held 197 passengers and crew hostage on board a Sudanese Airbus which they forced to fly to London in August 1996 during a flight from Khartoum to Amman.

Brandishing sauce bottles filled with salt - which they claimed were grenades - the six held an air hostess and 12-year-old girl, beat up staff and passengers and threatened to throw victims out of the plane in mid-air.

Fleeing regime

The drama eventually ended peacefully after intense negotiations at Stansted Airport, and the gang was jailed for between five and nine years at the Old Bailey in November 1997.

But they were cleared on appeal a year later after the court ruled that the judge at the trial was wrong to prevent the jury considering their defence that as opponents of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime they were acting under "necessity".

The men claimed they stormed the plane in a desperate bid to get to England and seek asylum after attempts to bribe their way to safety fell through.

The Home Office confirmed that all six members of the gang, led by 42-year-old Adnan Hoshan, had lodged asylum applications and were entitled to welfare benefits and legal aid.

Normally foreign nationals convicted of crimes in this country are immediately deported.

But a spokesman said that under international law, the UK was obliged to consider any asylum claim submitted once all criminal proceedings were completed.

'Huge backlog'

The immigration system is struggling to cope with the huge increase in the number of asylum applications being lodged, with thousands of people waiting years for their cases to be decided.

Two of the passengers on board the Sudanese aircraft also claimed political asylum. Their cases are also believed to be still under consideration.

One of the gang involved in Britain's previous hijack incident, involving a Air Tanzania Boeing 737 in 1982, Yassin Membar, now 39, was also granted asylum after serving two years of a three-year jail sentence.

He went on to work for a London law firm which has been taken over by the Law Society pending an investigation into allegations involving bogus asylum applications.

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See also:
17 Dec 98 |  UK
Iraqi hijackers who fled Saddam freed
08 Feb 00 |  UK
Stansted travel chaos eases
07 Feb 00 |  UK
How to negotiate with hijackers
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the hijackers?
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Anxious wait for Afghan relatives
07 Feb 00 |  UK
Stansted's hijack history
06 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Ariana: Flying in the face of adversity
08 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack crisis 'could last days'

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