Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacks plane while pilot left cockpit, flew to Geneva to seek asylum

GENEVA - An Ethiopian Airlines co-pilot hijacked a plane bound for Rome on Monday and flew it to Geneva where he wanted to seek asylum, officials said.

The Boeing 767-300 plane with 202 passengers and crew aboard had taken off from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa and landed in the Swiss city at about 6 a.m. (0500 GMT). Officials said no one on the flight was injured.

Geneva airport chief executive Robert Deillon told reporters that the co-pilot, an Ethiopian man born in 1983, took control of the plane when the pilot ventured outside the cockpit.

"The pilot went to the toilet and he (the co-pilot) locked himself in the cockpit," Deillon said.

The man "wanted asylum in Switzerland," he said. "That's the motivation of the hijacking."

Geneva prosecutor Olivier Jornot said Swiss federal authorities were investigating the hijacking and would press charges that could carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

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Frank Jordans in Berlin and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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