Cuban man held in Miami for 1980 hijacking to Havana

Saturday, August 17, 2002

MIAMI -- One of two brothers accused of hijacking an airliner in New Orleans in 1980 and forcing the pilots to land in Havana was denied bail Friday, a day after his arrest.

The FBI arrested Miguel Angel Aguiar Rodriguez, 55, at an immigration office in Miami after receiving a tip that the Cuba native had made an appointment to apply for permanent residency.

The FBI believes his brother, Roberto Teodoro Rodriguez, died in Cuba.

Imprisoned in Cuba

Aguiar, who spent four years in a Cuban prison for his part in the airplane hijacking, listened to Friday's court proceedings through a Spanish interpreter.

A public defender was named to represent him after he said he had bank accounts "but without any money in them."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Dube set a Wednesday hearing to decide whether Aguiar should remain in custody and whether he should be sent back to New Orleans for trial.

Aguiar and his brother boarded an Atlanta-bound Delta Airlines flight in New Orleans on Sept. 13, 1980, a federal indictment charged.

Armed with cigarette lighters and a plastic bottle filled with clear liquid, the hijackers forced the pilots to reroute the plane to Havana.

Cuban authorities arrested the men on arrival.

The 81 passengers were permitted to get off the plane and buy souvenirs before departing for their original destination.

Passengers given gifts

Passengers were given small bottles of rum, compliments of the Cuban government.

The brothers were charged in the 1980 indictment with air piracy and kidnapping.

The hijacking was the ninth to Cuba in a six-week period.

In December 2000, Aguiar used an alias and crossed the border from Mexico into Brownsville, Texas, and moved to Miami, the FBI said.

A tipster who overheard Aguiar's name in a Little Havana restaurant in Miami notified authorities that he was in the area.

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