9 years jail Somali Woman for plane hijacker.

Halkaan ka akhri

A Somali woman was today jailed for nine years for New Zealand’s only in-flight aircraft hijacking which terrified passengers and crew and ended a pilot’s career.

Asha Ali Abdille, 36, a refugee from the horrors of Somalia who never fitted into New Zealand society, will not be considered for parole until she has served six years.

She has already been in custody for 2-1/2 years since her arrest after the Air National plane landed at Christchurch Airport following the hijacking on February 8, 2008.

Crown prosecutor Pip Currie told the High Court in Christchurch: “The kidnapping of innocent air passengers and flight crew must be met with a strong response from the courts. The community expects nothing less.”

The crown had asked for a sentencing starting point of 15 years and Justice Christine French increased that by a year because of Abdille’s record of anti-social behaviour.

She has 27 previous convictions and she was on bail for threatening to kill and possession of a weapon at the time of the hijacking.

The captain, first officer, and a woman passenger were all cut during the bizarre and violent incident on a flight from Blenheim to Christchurch.

The captain’s hand was badly injured in the struggle for one of the three knives Abdille was carrying and he had to have part of a thumb amputated. The first officer had a cut foot. The court was told that one of the pair had given up flying.

Wounding and injuring charges against Abdille were dropped after she pleaded guilty to the hijacking charge.

Defence counsel Elizabeth Bulger argued for a lesser jail term with no minimum non-parole term because it would not affect the deterrent value of the sentence and it could delay access to the treatment that Abdille needs.

Justice French made a substantial reduction in the sentence for Abdille’s mental health issues – which were finally assessed as not affecting her fitness to stand trial – and her guilty plea a month before the scheduled trial.

Miss Bulger read a long statement that had been dictated to her by Abdille, telling the story of her life and her difficulties.

She said she was from a family of 17 children, and had been happy in Somalia but had to flee Mogadishu when the civil war broke out in 1991. She was alone but met her grandfather and was with him when bandits attacked and chopped him to pieces.

She told of other dangers and violence during years in refugee camps before she came to New Zealand without her family which had apparently headed for Ethiopia. She told of sometimes queueing for three days to get rations at the camps.

She spoke of the struggle of life in New Zealand since 1994, repeatedly alleging that someone from the refugee organisation claimed he “owned” her and wanted a relationship with her.

She alleged he kept tracking her down as she moved about, and told lies to the police and employers about her.

Police repeatedly arrested her on false charges while she lived on the streets, she said. When her sister joined her in New Zealand she was taken away and sent to a women’s refuge in Christchurch.

Abdille said she became very unstable after her sister was taken away – she described herself as a crazy person – and decided to take a plane to get to Australia.

She said she knew what she did must have been absolutely terrifying for those on board but she did not wish to harm or kill anyone.

Her statement ended with her sentiments about being alone, far from her home and family, in a country where no one helped or cared for her.

“The New Zealand Government has committed crimes against me by bringing me into the country under false pretences and selling me like an animal to a rich man.”

Justice French said Abdille had post traumatic stress disorder, on-going adjustment difficulties, and behaviour disturbance. She did not fit in anywhere and developed persecutory beliefs, major depressive episodes, and obsessive compulsive disorder.

A doctor assessed that at the time of the hijacking she was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive episode.

Justice French said there were no guideline decisions or sentences because it was the first hijacking in New Zealand, but the lawyers had made submissions about overseas cases in which the penalties ranged from five to 25 years.

Some of the people on board the flight had declined to provide victim impact statements because they did not want to relive an episode where they thought they were going to die.

She said one of the pilots, who had given up flying, felt angry that air security had to be increased because of Abdille’s actions, and the cost of that would filter down to all passengers.

Source: NZ Herald

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