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Cuba Executes 3 Convicted  Ferry Hijackers - 2003-04-12


Cuba has executed three men charged with terrorism in connection with the recent hijacking of a passenger ferry.

Cuba's legal system worked at lightning speed, executing the men within three days of their conviction, and just 9 days after the hijacking was committed.

State-run television said the prisoners had been found guilty of what it termed "grave acts of terrorism." It said the death sentences had been upheld by both Cuba's Supreme Tribunal and the Council of State, which is headed by President Fidel Castro. It added that the sentences were just and in accordance with Cuban law.

The men were executed by a firing squad early Friday.

The prisoners were described as leaders of a gun and knife-wielding gang that seized control of a passenger ferry in Havana Bay and ordered its captain to head for the United States. Cuba's coast guard intercepted the vessel in the Florida Straits, where it had run out of fuel, and eventually towed the ferry to the Cuban port of Mariel. Cuban commando units subsequently brought the stand-off to an end, rescuing several dozen passengers and the crew, and arresting the hijackers.

The ferry incident was the latest in a series of high-profile attempts to escape the Communist-run island. In the last month, two Cuban planes have been hijacked and forced to fly to Florida.

Cuban authorities say the hijackings endanger innocent lives and constitute a threat to national security.