US citizen pleads guilty to 1968 Cuba hijacking

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NEW YORK – A U.S. citizen accused of hijacking a plane and forcing it to go to Cuba more than four decades ago pleaded guilty Thursday to kidnapping, conspiracy to commit air piracy and interfering with a flight crew.

Luis Armando Pena Soltren, 67, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court, and his sentencing was under way late Thursday morning.

Pena Soltren admitted in court that, about two hours into the November 1968 flight, he held a small knife to a flight attendant’s throat for about five minutes.

Authorities said he and co-defendants hid pistols and large knives in a baby’s diaper bag to get them aboard the flight from Kennedy Airport. The hijackers forced the pilots to divert the Puerto Rico-bound Pan American flight, which had 103 passengers and crew aboard, to Havana.

Defense attorney James Neuman said previously that Pena Soltren has a wife and four daughters. He said his client had worked in agriculture “in the fields” in Cuba.

Two others pleaded guilty to lesser charges in the 1970s; they were sentenced to 15 years or less.