Turkish prime minister helps end airline hijacking
According to Turkish Transportation Minister Binali Yildirim and conversations between the pilot and Athens flight control tower, Erdogan telephoned the hijacker and urged him to surrender.
A tape of the conversation between the Turkish pilot and the control tower was broadcast by Greece’s Mega television network.
"We are negotiating,” the pilot told the control tower when informed that police had arrived.
"Negotiating with whom? I don’t understand, please say again,” the tower asked.
"We are negotiating with our prime minister,” the pilot replied.
Gencarslan hijacked the plane, which had been on a Turkish domestic flight between Istanbul and Ankara, reportedly because he was distraught and overwhelmed by family problems.
Authorities in Turkey said the hijacker had claimed to be carrying explosives. But they noted he was seen carrying five candles as he boarded the plane, and could have been pretending they were sticks of dynamite – as occurred in a previous hijacking in Istanbul in February.
Greek authorities were carrying out lab tests on what Gencarslan claimed were the explosives.
Gencarslan was being held at police headquarters in Athens, while Turkey sent another plane to take the passengers home after the five-hour hijacking.
"The investigation will proceed in accordance with the criminal law and all legal procedures will be adhered to,” Greek Public Order Minister Michalis Chrisohoidis told reporters.
Gencarslan hijacked the Airbus A310 about 25 minutes after it took off from Istanbul late Friday with a total of 196 passengers and nine crew on board.
The domestic flight at first diverted course and began heading toward the Turkish coastal city of Izmir, but later changed course again and headed toward Greece.
The Greek air force scrambled F-16 fighter jets to prevent the plane from landing, but officials quickly called them off.
"Two hundred people are two hundred people. We would have prevented it coming to Athens, but they said they had no fuel and we couldn’t risk it,” Greek government spokesman Christos Protopapas said.
According to Turkish police, Gencarslan hijacked the plane in an attempt to reunite with his father, who lives in Germany.
He was reportedly depressed because his stepfather had barred him from seeing his mother and sister living in eastern Turkey.
Turkish authorities earlier said the hijacker wanted to fly to Berlin and complained that his mother and sister were being kept "hostage.”
"He has some family problems. We used a fatherly and understanding approach to convince him” to surrender, Yildirim said.
Although the hijacking apparently was not politically motivated, there have been a number of such incidents in the past.
Kurdish, leftist and radical Islamic groups are active in Turkey . Chechen militants have also carried out a series of hijackings and hostage-takings to protest Russia’s military campaign in Chechnya.
The last hijacking at Istanbul’s airport was in February, when a lone hijacker claiming to have dynamite sticks briefly held two flight
attendants hostage before police stormed the aircraft. The police later said the dynamite sticks turned out to be candles.