Fawaz Younis, a Lebanese militiaman charged with hijacking in a case that tests recent U.S. anti-terrorism legislation, told jurors Monday that the pain of two broken wrists and seasickness led him to confess while without legal counsel to FBI agents who snared him in international waters off Cyprus.
“I was placed in a very sensitive position,” he said. “I did not know what would become of me.” He said he was so sick that “I would do anything so (authorities would) leave me alone.”
Speaking through an interpreter, Younis described how an American doctor provided him only with ice for his broken and tightly manacled wrists until after he had signed his confession.
Events Before Skyjacking
In riveting detail, he also outlined events leading to the 1985 skyjacking of Royal Jordanian Flight 402 in Beirut, Lebanon. He described how, in the midst of clashes between Shiite and Palestinian gunmen in Beirut, he was summoned by a commander of Lebanon’s Amal Shiite militia and told that he would hijack a plane the next day.
The defense’s case rests largely on evidence that Younis followed what he thought were legitimate military orders from superiors who are recognized political and military officials. Amal is headed by Lebanese Justice Minister Nabih Berri. As Younis and earlier prosecution witnesses testified, Amal also works in West Beirut alongside the Lebanese Army in protecting key facilities, such as the airport and American University of Beirut.
On June 10, Younis said, he was ordered by Amal military commander Akel Hamiyeh to hijack a plane to Tunis, where Arab League foreign ministers were to meet the next day to debate the Shiite-Palestinian fighting. While he and four others were held incommunicado overnight, Younis was handed a statement to be read on arrival in Tunis, demanding the Palestinians’ removal from Lebanon because the Amal feared that the presence of Palestine Liberation Organization guerrillas might provoke strikes by neighboring Israel.
He testified that he was chosen to head the mission because: “I always carried out any military order given to me without exception. They trusted me not to harm civilians.”
Asked by Francis D. Carter, his court-appointed defense attorney, what would happen to him if he had refused, Younis told of another Amal member who was shot through both legs for turning down an assignment. Judge Aubrey Robinson Jr. interjected to ask what assignment Younis meant. “To participate in the fighting,” Younis replied.
He said he did not pick the jet to be hijacked. “It was selected by the military commander. It was the only plane taking off in the morning . . . so it would get to Tunis before the meeting started.”
Carter has sought to portray Younis as a victim of Lebanon’s 14 years of civil strife. Younis told how his 2- and 5-year-old sons are named for brothers killed in sectarian fighting. He will be cross-examined today in the case, which is expected to go to the jury this week.