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Man admits to 1968 JFK-to-Cuba hijacking

A 67-year-old man Thursday admitted hijacking a plane four decades ago and forcing it to land in Cuba, telling a judge how he threatened to cut a flight attendant's throat to get access to the cockpit, where another man held a gun to the back of the co-pilot.

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein forced Luis Armando Pena Soltren to reveal the details of the hijacking, highlighting the violence and frightening nature of an encounter that otherwise might be lost in the stilted language of formal criminal charges.

Pena Soltren, a U.S. resident, returned to the United States in October, something his lawyer said he had been seeking to do for decades because he was remorseful.

He entered his plea to charges of conspiracy to commit air piracy, interfering with a flight crew, and kidnapping, in federal court in Manhattan. Sentencing was set for June 29.

Pan American Flight 281, which had 103 passengers and crew, was traveling from Kennedy Airport to Puerto Rico on Nov. 24, 1968.

Pena Soltren, speaking through a Spanish interpreter, answered questions about holding a knife to the throat of a flight attendant. He also explained how he and another hijacker entered the cockpit.

An indictment returned in December 1968 charged Pena Soltren and two others with using pistols and large knives to force the pilots to divert the flight. - AP

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