Man held in 1968 hijacking faces NYC arraignment

NEW YORK - October 12, 2009

Soltren, who was arrested Sunday after arriving on a flight from Havana, was expected to be arraigned Tuesday in Manhattan on a 1968 indictment. He was in custody Monday.

Soltren and two accomplices used weapons hidden in a diaper bag to hijack the Pan Am flight on Nov. 24, 1968, authorities said.

"As the 1968 charges allege, he terrorized dozens of passengers when he and his cohorts wielded pistols and knives to hijack Pan American Flight 281," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement Sunday.

Soltren, 66, had arranged his return with the FBI and State Department because he wanted to see his wife and other family members, who lived in either Puerto Rico or Florida, an FBI spokesman told The New York Times. Authorities would not elaborate on other details of his surrender, including whether he had any relatives in the New York area.

Dozens of U.S. flights were hijacked and diverted to Cuba in the 1960s. Some of the flights were hijacked by self-described radical leftists, fugitives seeking asylum on the Caribbean island or criminals scheming to extort money from the U.S. government or the airlines.

Pan Am Flight 281 was commandeered by three men who forced their way into the cabin and ordered the crew to fly to the Cuban capital, according to a criminal complaint. Weapons and ammunition were sneaked onto the flight in the diaper bag, the court papers said.

Two of the men were arrested in the mid-1970s and pleaded guilty to their roles in the skyjacking, prosecutors said.

Another man, who was not on the flight but was described in the complaint as a leader of the Puerto Rican Movement for Liberation, was indicted in the hijacking. He was found not guilty on all charges.

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