Hijackers Wanted to Make ‘Statement of Solidarity’ for Man Who Shot Pope

<i> From Times Wire Services</i>

Two Turks who hijacked an Air Malta jetliner wanted to “make a statement of solidarity” for the Turkish man who shot Pope John Paul II, police said Monday.

The men freed their hostages unharmed and surrendered at the Cologne airport, where the Boeing 737 jet landed after they hijacked it on a flight from Valletta, Malta, to Istanbul, Turkey, with 80 people on board.

One of the hijackers--who had what turned out to be fake explosives strapped to his chest--had demanded the release of Mehmet Ali Agca, who is serving a life sentence in Italy for trying to kill the pope in 1981, police said.

The police officer in charge of the operation, Winrich Granitzka, said the two men carried out the hijacking so Agca would feel “he has not been abandoned.”


In Italy, Agca issued a statement through his lawyer saying he had nothing to do with the hijacking and “would never accept being freed with the mediation of terrorists.”

The two men were “not very aggressive,” police said. They “made no political demands,” Cologne Police Chief Juergen Roters told reporters.

They face charges of hostage-taking and air piracy, which carry jail sentences of five to 15 years.