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US appeals Portuguese refusal to extradite fugitive

The United States has appealed the decision of a Portuguese court to refuse the extradition of US fugitive George Wright, arrested in September after 41 years on the run, a court official said Tuesday.

Portuguese lawyer Ruis Patricio filed the appeal with the court on Tuesday on behalf of Washington, president of the Lisbon appeal court Luis Maria Vaz das Neves, told the Lusa news agency.

On November 17, the court refused a US extradition request on the grounds that 68-year-old Wright had become a Portuguese citizen.

Wright, arrested on September 26, had been living in the country for 20 years at Almocageme, a village some 30 kilometres (18 miles) from the capital.

He had changed his name to Jose Luis Jorge dos Santos and was married with two sons, now aged 25 and 26.

But the US authorities have been searching for him since his escape in 1970 from a New Jersey prison, where he had been jailed for a 1962 murder.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation had been searching for Wright since his August 1970 escape from Bayside State Prison in New Jersey, where he was jailed for a 1962 murder.

For two years, Wright disappeared into the Black Liberation Army, a violent group of African American communists.

Then on July 31, 1972, he was among five adults who hijacked a Delta flight flying from Detroit to Miami.

They demanded a $1 million ransom for the passengers. When that was paid, they forced the plane to fly to Boston where it refuelled and took another pilot hostage, 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 managed to acquire his new identity in Guinea Bissau, a former Portuguese colony which granted him political asylum in the early 1980s.

He acquired Portuguese nationality a few years later following his marriage.