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Man nabbed after 41 years on the run fights US extradition

A US man arrested in Portugal after escaping from prison, hijacking a plane and spending 41 years on the run, has formally opposed his extradition to the United States, a lawyer said Friday.

George Wright, arrested on September 26 in the coastal town of Almocageme, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Lisbon, submitted Thursday his reasons for not wishing to return to his home country, lawyer Sofia Frias Britto told AFP.

The Portuguese court system now has five days to examine his bid and issue a ruling, she said.

Another of Wright’s lawyers, Manuel Luis Ferreira, told the Lusa news agency he was confident extradition would be denied, adding: “He is a citizen of Portuguese nationality enjoying all his rights.”

Wright, who had lived near Lisbon for 20 years under the name Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos, obtained Portuguese nationality when he married Portuguese Maria do Rosario Valente, with whom he had two children.

The FBI seeks his extradition from Portugal “to serve the remainder of a 15- to 30-year sentence.”

Wright took part in a series of armed robberies from November 1962, including a raid on a filling station in which a man was shot dead.

Escaping from prison in New Jersey in August 1970, he was among five adults who hijacked a Delta flight in 1972 flying from Detroit to Miami, demanding a $1 million ransom for the passengers.

When this was paid, they forced the crew to fly to Boston where the plane was refuelled and took on another hostage pilot, then crossed the Atlantic to Algeria where the hijackers sought asylum.

Although the plane and money were seized by the Algerians and returned to the United States, the hijackers were only briefly detained.

In May 1976 French police captured four of the gang — though not Wright. Before he was married, Wright was given asylum in the former Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau, where he took on his new identity, Ferreira said.