Hijack Suspect’s Confession Held Legal on Appeal
Prosecutors may use suspected Lebanese terrorist Fawaz Younis’ confession as evidence when he stands trial on charges of leading a 1985 airline hijacking in the Middle East, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The three-judge appeals panel reversed the decision of a lower-court judge that the FBI had illegally obtained the signed confession from Younis about the June 11, 1985, hijacking of a Royal Jordanian airliner.
Younis was arrested Sept. 13, 1987, after being lured aboard an FBI-chartered yacht off Cyprus by the prospect of making a drug deal. He awaits trial in U.S. District Court on charges that he led a group of five men who hijacked the airliner in Beirut.
The appeals panel said it found no evidence to support U.S. District Judge Barrington D. Parker’s finding that Younis’ recurrent bouts of seasickness had impaired his understanding when the FBI advised him of his right to remain silent.
The panel rejected as “clearly erroneous” Parker’s finding that during the interrogation sessions aboard a Navy ship, Younis suffered “throbbing and numbing” pain from wrists that were fractured when FBI agents slammed him to the deck of the yacht.
Circuit Judge Abner Mikva wrote for the panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here: “Younis’ physical circumstances at the time that he waived his Miranda rights may well have been uncomfortable. . . . The FBI agents might well have used less force. . . . But discomfort and surprise, by themselves, have never sufficed to render a waiver unknowing and involuntary . . . .”
Parker, who criticized the FBI’s tactics, had suppressed the confession last February, prompting an appeal by prosecutors that has delayed the trial, now scheduled to begin Nov. 14.
Younis, a former member of the Shia Amal militia, is accused of leading the group that stormed the Royal Jordanian airliner with AK-47 assault rifles at Beirut International Airport. After the airliner’s 74 passengers and crew members were released, the hijackers blew up the plane.