“Wait… we were hijacked?”
The 202 travelers of Flight 702 likely asked themselves this once they were safe and sound on Swiss ground. Even the pilot of the Ethiopian airliner didn’t realize the plane he was flying from Addis Ababa to Rome had been hijacked until he emerged from the lavatory. During his bathroom break, his co-pilot barricaded himself in the cockpit and began jetting toward Geneva – with the aim of obtaining political asylum.
Hovering over Geneva’s airspace, the co-pilot reportedly requested, “And you have to give us lastly permission on board for asylum.”
The tower replied, “Yes I know,” and added, “Sorry, but we are still waiting for the response. We are trying our best to get you the response, sir.”
Then, in a turn of events described only as the plane being “forced to proceed” to the airport, he abandoned his plan, landed at the Geneva International Airport and told the control tower, “I will be coming out via the window.”
As promised, the skyjacker deplaned by way of a rope and gave himself up.
“His act has been motivated by the fact that he feels threatened in his county and wants to make an asylum claim in Switzerland,” said Swiss police spokesman Philippe Grangean.
It’s easy to chock up an event like this as evil villainy from the safety of a free country. And that’s totally understandable, given the limited facts often reported with missing context. However, it’s worth considering what desperate measures we’d all take to escape a country that denied us basic human rights.
Several similar incidents transpired in the 90’s, also motivated by hijackers trying to flee Ethiopia. According to a 2013 report by Human Rights Watch, conditions there have only declined. The findings indicated that, “Ethiopian authorities continued to severely restrict basic rights of freedom of expression, association, and assembly in 2012.”
NEW AUDIO: Ethiopian Air 702 pilot says he's leaving plane through the aircraft's window – https://t.co/njNGRLbGOc
— Matthew Keys (@MatthewKeysLive) February 17, 2014
Former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys, uploaded audio of the story and said, “From the audio that I heard… it appeared that he was pretty calm throughout the entire flight.”
Keys went on to add, “He spoke in very clear and very calm English. And the air traffic reporter really did a great job, from the recordings, keeping the situation under control.”
All passengers are unharmed.
Image via Youtube