September 5, 1986 - Hijacking of Pan Am flight #73 in Karachi, Pakistan. Twenty people killed, more than 100 injured.
1988 - Five men are convicted in Pakistan for their roles in the hijacking. Each is sentenced to death. These sentences are later commuted to life sentences.
August 29, 1991 - A 126-count indictment is returned under seal (i.e., in secret) by a grand jury in the District of Columbia.
Spring 2000 - Officials in Pakistan begin making public statements that the jail terms of the hijackers will soon expire.
June 19, 2000 - The federal court in the District of Columbia grants the government's request to unseal the indictment, thereby making public the pending criminal charges in the United States.
September 28, 2001 - Zaid Hassan Abd Latif Safarini, one of the men convicted in Pakistan for his role in the hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is captured by the FBI shortly after he was released from jail by Pakistan. The other four defendants convicted in connection with the hijacking remain in jail in Pakistan.
October 1, 2001 - Defendant Safarini is brought before a federal judge in Anchorage, Alaska, where he is ordered to be held and transported to the District of Columbia to face the charges pending against him.
October 2, 2001 - Defendant Safarini is arraigned before Judge Emmet G. Sullivan in the District of Columbia and pleads not guilty to each of the counts in the indictment. Defendant Safarini will be held in prison pending trial.
November 7, 2001 - The Court finds that, due to the complexity of the case, it would be unreasonable to expect the parties to prepare for trial within the time limits established by the Speedy Trial Act (usually 70 days). The Court finds that the ends of justice will be served by allowing the parties additional time to prepare for trial. Similar findings are made by the Court on May 3, 2002, and again on November 1, 2002.
August 28, 2002 - A 95-count superseding indictment is returned by a grand jury in the District of Columbia, charging defendant Safarini and four co-defendants. These charges will serve as the basis for the upcoming criminal trial of defendant Safarini. See a copy of the superseding indictment.
September 12, 2002 - Defendant Safarini is arraigned on the superseding indictment and pleads not guilty to each of the counts.
September 18, 2002 - Attorneys for defendant Safarini file a motion to bar the government from seeking the death penalty against the defendant, arguing that a death sentence in this case would violate the ex post facto clause of the Constitution.
December 12, 2002 - The government files a notice of its intent to seek the death penalty against defendant Safarini, as well as a legal brief in response to defendant Safarini's motion seeking to bar the availability of the death penalty in this case. The government argues that the death penalty is available for defendant Safarini's violation of the air piracy statute.
December 30, 2002 - Attorneys for defendant Safarini file a reply brief in support of their motion seeking to bar the death penalty against the defendant.
February 10, 2003 - The attorneys for the defense and the government filed pretrial motions and notices.
February 12, 2003 - Legal arguments were held before Judge Sullivan, with the attorneys for the government and the defense arguing their positions on the defendant's motion seeking to bar the death penalty in this case. At the end of the proceeding, Judge Sullivan took the matter under advisement and will issue a written decision at a later date.
March 10, 2003 - Attorneys for both sides filed briefs in response to the motions and notices filed on February 10, 2003.
March 31, 2003 - Defense counsel filed reply briefs concerning motions filed on Feb 10, 2003.
April 10, 2003 - The Court issued a legal opinion, ruling that the death penalty is not available in this case. By law, the government will have 30 days to decide whether to appeal this ruling. View a copy of the Court's legal opinion on the availability of the death penalty in this case.
April 11, 2003 - A status hearing was held before Judge Sullivan. The Court will allow the government to file additional briefs on some of the pending legal motions by April 22, 2003, and the attorneys for the defendant will be permitted to file any responding briefs by April 29, 2003. The motions hearing will go forward on May 5, 2003.
May 5, 2003 - The court heard testimony from two FBI agents in connection with the defendant's motion to suppress statements and the defendant's speedy trial motion. The next status hearing in the case is now scheduled for Monday May 19, 2003, at 2:00 p.m. The motions hearing will continue on Monday, June 16, 2003.
May 9, 2003 - The government filed a motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the United States from Seeking the Death Penalty in this case.
May 19, 2003 - A status hearing was held during which the Court decided to vacate (cancel) the September 8th trial date, pending the resolution of the government's motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the death penalty in this case. Once the death penalty issue is resolved, including any appeal, if one is filed, a new trial date will be set. The court set a briefing schedule regarding the government's motion to reconsider the death penalty ruling. The defendant's response will be due on May 30, 2003, and the government's reply will be due on June 16, 2003. The motion will be argued on July 21, 2003. The hearing on motions not related to the death penalty will continue on September 10, 2003, not on June 16, 2003, as previously scheduled.
May 30, 2003 - Defendant filed his response to the government's motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the death penalty in this case.
June 16, 2003 - The government filed its reply brief in support of its motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the death penalty in this case.
July 21, 2003 - The court began hearing arguments on the government's motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the death penalty in this case. The court suspended the hearing before it was completed due to a lack of sufficient interpreters for the defendant. The court rescheduled the hearing to continue on Wednesday, August 13, 2003, at 10:00 a.m.
August 13, 2003 - Legal arguments were held before Judge Sullivan, with the attorneys for the government and the defense arguing their positions on the government's motion for the court to reconsider its ruling barring the death penalty in this case. At the end of the proceeding, Judge Sullivan took the matter under advisement and will issue a written decision at a later date.
September 9 - 10, 2003 - The Court postponed the hearing on legal motions that are not related to the death penalty until November 17, 2003, at 10:00 a.m., and scheduled a status conference for October 2, 2003, at 9:30 a.m.
October 2, 2003 - A status conference was held before Judge Sullivan and another status conference was scheduled for October 21, 2003, at 10:00 a.m.
October 21, 2003 - A status conference was held before Judge Sullivan and another status conference was scheduled for November 12, 2003, at 9:30 a.m. The court date of November 17, 2003, which had previously been set as a date to hear arguments on legal motions not related to the death penalty, has been converted to a status conference.
November 12, 2003 - A status conference was held before Judge Sullivan at which the parties announced that a plea agreement has been reached in the case. A plea proceeding date was set for Tuesday, December 16, 2003, at 10:00 a.m. and the status hearing previously scheduled for November 17, 2003, has been canceled. At the plea proceeding on December 16th, the terms of the plea agreement will be made public and the defendant is expected to admit his guilt. Also, a sentencing date will be scheduled (probably for some time in the spring of 2004). At the sentencing in the spring of 2004, the judge will consider victim impact evidence from those who survived Pan Am 73 as well as from family members or friends of those who were killed. Victim impact statements can be given in written or recorded form, and a limited number of victims will be permitted to give in-court testimony. More information will be provided on submitting a victim impact statement at a later date.
December 16, 2003 - Defendant Safarini pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to all 95 counts of the superseding indictment against him in connection with the hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73. Under the plea agreement announced in court, the government has agreed not to litigate further the Court’s prior ruling that the death penalty was not available in this case in exchange for Safarini agreeing to the following terms, among other things: (1) a guilty plea to all 95 counts of the indictment; (2) an agreement that Safarini will be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment on each count, with some counts to run consecutively and some to run concurrently, for a total sentence of three consecutive life sentences plus 25 years, which is equivalent to 160 years in prison; (3) an agreement that, as the result of the consecutive sentencing, there will be no mandatory parole release date for Safarini during his lifetime; (4) an acknowledgment that, despite the fact that Safarini will have a right to parole proceedings under governing law at the time the hijacking took place, the government intends to oppose his release on parole at any time during his lifetime; (5) an agreement by Safarini to waive any appeal of the sentence, to waive any collateral attack on the plea or the sentence and to forego any motion for reduction of sentence; and (6) an agreement that Safarini will cooperate “whenever, and in whatever form, the United States shall reasonably request,” including by testifying against his co-defendants, if and when any of them comes into United States custody. A sentencing date is now set for May 12, 2004. Interim status hearing dates were set for February 18, 2004, and April 14, 2004. At the sentencing, the judge will consider victim impact evidence from those who survived Pan Am 73 as well as from family members or friends of those who were killed. More information will be provided to victims concerning submitting a victim impact.
January 20, 2004 - Letters were mailed to victims whose addresses are known to the prosecution. The letters provided information about defendant Safarini's guilty plea and encouraged victims to attend the scheduled sentencing proceeding. A form was provided for victims to let the prosecution team know if they are interested in attending and/or speaking at the sentencing proceeding. The Sentencing Response Form should be submitted by February 12, 2004. Victims were also encouraged to submit a victim impact statement and a form was provided to serve as a guide in composing a victim impact statement. Victim impact statements should be submitted to the prosecution team by March 1, 2004. The letter also contained a handbook entitled "Coping After Terrorism: Information for Victims and Survivors of the Pan Am Flight #73 Hijacking."
May 12-13, 2004 - A sentencing proceeding was held before Judge Sullivan, attended by more than 50 victims and family members, many of whom provided powerful and emotional statements during the two-day proceeding. At the conclusion of the proceeding, Judge Sullivan sentenced the defendant to three consecutive life terms plus 25 years, for a total of 160 years. Judge Sullivan also recommended that the defendant never receive parole. He also recommended that the Bureau of Prisons assign the defendant to the Administrative Maximum facility in Florence, Colorado, also referred to as "SuperMax."
See a copy of the Government's Sentencing Memorandum
Week of July 5, 2004 - Defendant Safarini was transferred by the Bureau of Prisons to the Administrative Maximum facility in Florence, Colorado, also referred to as "SuperMax."
January 2008 - Pakistan reportedly released from jail the remaining four hijackers who had been convicted in 1988.
December 3, 2009 - The FBI announced that it has added the four fugitive hijackers to the FBI Most Wanted Terrorists list. This action was undertaken in coordination with a joint announcement with the U.S. Department of State that the Rewards for Justice Program is offering a reward of up to $5 million each for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the four individuals – Wadoud Muhammad Hafiz al-Turki , Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, Muhammad Abdullah Khalil Hussain ar-Rahayyal, and Muhammad Ahmed al-Munawar — all believed to have been members of the Abu Nidal terrorist organization.
September 5, 2011- This date marked the 25th anniversary of the tragic hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73. See a Message on the 25th Anniversary of the Hijacking of Pan Am Flight 73.
If you wish to contact the FBI case agent assigned to this matter, Special Agent Michael O’Callaghan, any of the prosecutors handling this matter, Jennifer Levy, Gregg Maisel or Robert Bowman, or victim-witness advocate Yvonne Bryant you may do so at USADC.PanAm73@usdoj.gov.
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If you have any questions regarding the legal proceedings in this case, please contact us at USADC.PanAm73@usdoj.gov.