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Taiwan charges Air China pilot with air piracy.

TAIPEI, Dec. 8 Kyodo

An Air China pilot who hijacked his own aircraft with 96 people aboard from China to Taiwan in October was charged with air piracy and illegal entry Tuesday, Taiwan's semiofficial Central News Agency reported.

But the prosecution refrained from requesting a sentence for Yuan Bin and his wife Xu Mei, who stands accused of being an accessory to the crime, since they showed deep remorse over the act and had a simple motive, the agency said.

It quoted a prosecutor as saying Yuan's case was different from past hijackings since he was the captain and did not use violent means to gain control over the aircraft.

The prosecution hopes that the judge will hand out the most lenient sentence for the pair, the prosecutor said.

Yuan decided on the hijacking out of massive dissatisfaction with working conditions at his airline, lack of respect from colleagues and the company's housing policy, the report said.

Yuan is accused of hijacking Air China flight CA 905 en route from Beijing to the southern tourist city Kunming on Oct. 28, according to the writ filed by the Taoyuan public prosecutor's office.

Yuan bought a ticket for his wife and saw to it that she was seated in the pilot's cabin. When the aircraft was over China's Shanxi Province, Yuan diverted it from its course and headed toward Taiwan, the writ said.

Co-pilot Wen Fei tried to dissuade Yuan from flying to Taiwan, but did not interfere since the captain, who was in control of the aircraft at the time, threatened to bring the aircraft down, the writ said.

Yuan contacted the control tower at Taipei's Chiang Kai-shek International Airport before leaving Chinese airspace and landed the plane at the airport at 11:17 a.m.

The aircraft returned to China the same day, while Yuan and his wife remained in custody in Taiwan despite demands from Beijing for their immediate return.

Taiwan, which saw a string of hijackings from China to the island in the early 1990s, insists that hijackers stand trial and serve their sentences before being sent back to China.

The two sides were close to concluding an agreement on the repatriation of hijackers when cross-Strait dialogue broke down in 1995.

Taiwan, nonetheless, last year repatriated two hijackers who had been released from jail. Several others who have served out their sentences or have been paroled are awaiting repatriation.
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Publication:Japan Transportation Scan
Date:Dec 14, 1998
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