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Plane hijacker jailed for nine years

Published: 5:53AM Friday August 27, 2010 Source: NZPA/ONE News

A Somalian woman has been sentenced to nine years jail in New Zealand's first plane hijacking case.

Thirty-six-year-old Asha Ali Abdille, a Somali refugee who was living in Blenheim at the time, had admitted the knifepoint hijacking of a small passenger plane flying from Blenheim to Christchurch on February 8, 2008.

She was arrested when the plane landed at Christchurch Airport and has been in custody ever since.
 
Abdille pleaded guilty a month ago and was remanded for sentence today, before Justice Christine French.

Asha was sentenced in the High Court at Christchurch to nine years jail with a non-parole period of six years, which the police said is a fair sentence.

Detective Sergent Valyn Barrett of the Christchurch Police said it will bring some closure to the eight victims of the hijacking, who have been suffering for over two and a half years.

The victims spoke of an overwhelming sense of helplessness, fear of flying, nightmares, stress and associated health problems.

Abdille, a vineyard worker, took three knives aboard the flight and used one to cut the pilot.

The pilot received cuts to both hands and needed extensive surgery to reattach muscles, tendons and a nerve. He was also cut on his back. The first officer was cut on his foot and a passenger was also wounded.

However several injuring and wounding charges involving aircraft crew were dropped when Abdille agreed to plead guilty to the hijacking, the first such case in New Zealand.
 
She demanded the pilot fly to Australia, but when he said they did not have enough fuel, she suggested they fly into the sea.
When the plane landed at Christchurch, Abdille was overpowered by the pilot and first officer.

Abdille's lawyer, Elizabeth Bulger, told the court said she did not want to harm anyone or kill anyone. She just wanted to get out of the country and go to Australia to escape.

The court heard Abdille struggled to settle in New Zealand, and suffers from post traumatic stress syndrome and a raft of other mental health issues.

Abdille's own statement was read out in court which showed she was a victim from a violent childhood in war-torn Somalia. Abdille watched family members being shot and hacked to death in front of her, before she was given refugee status by authorities in New Zealand in 1996.

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