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Portuguese court puts US fugitive under house arrest

A Portuguese court on Friday placed a US man arrested near Lisbon after 41 years on the run under house arrest and ordered him to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet.

“The decision taken by the court and its application are immediate,” president of the appeal court Luis Vaz das Neves told AFP of George Wright, who was arrested last month after living in Portugal for 20 years.

The courts are considering his legal appeal against a US bid to have Wright, now 68, extradited and are not expected to deliver their ruling for at least two months.

Wright was arrested on September 26, in the coastal town of Almocageme around 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Lisbon.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation had been searching for him since his escape from Bayside State Prison in New Jersey in August 1970.

But in his legal bid to block extradition Wright has argued that he is now a Portuguese citizen.

Wright was jailed in the US for a 1962 murder.

Following his prison break, on July 31 1972, he was among five people who hijacked a Delta flight from Detroit to Miami.

They demanded a one million ransom dollar for the passengers and when this was paid, they forced the plane to fly to Boston where it refuelled and took on another hostage pilot, then crossed the Atlantic to Algeria.

The hijackers sought asylum there. 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 — but not Wright.

Wright’s lawyers say he got his new identity from Guinea Bissau, a former Portuguese colony in west Africa, in the 1980s.

Living under the pseudonym of Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos, he acquired Portuguese nationality following his marriage to a Portuguese woman a few years later, with whom he has had two sons, who are today 25 and 26.