Nova Scotia

CanJet hijacker unaware actions were illegal: lawyer

The lawyer for a Jamaican man who held Canadians hostage last spring aboard a CanJet flight bound for Halifax told CBC News on Thursday night that his client didn't feel he was doing anything wrong.

The lawyer for a Jamaican man who held Canadians hostage last spring aboard a CanJet flight bound for Halifax told CBC News Thursday night that his client didn't feel he was doing anything wrong.

George Thomas, speaking from Kingston, Jamaica, said he had expected the judge to find Stephen Fray not guilty because of mental illness.

"I was expecting what the law says in a situation like this, that he did not know what he was doing at the time of the incident, he did not believe that it was illegal," Thomas said.

Fray, 22, will be sentenced Oct. 8 in a Kingston court on eight charges including robbery, assault, shooting with intent and possession of ammunition.

Jamaica Gleaner newspaper reporter Janet Silvera, who covered the trial, said the guilty verdict was a surprise.

But she believes the testimony of a government psychiatrist gave Judge Sarah Thomas-James room to find Fray guilty.

"The government psychiatrist, who treated him, could not say whether or not he was not in his right mind on the night of the incident," Silvera told CBC News Friday from Kingston.

Fray's family has not yet decided whether to appeal the verdict.

Fray used a .38-calibre revolver to hijack CanJet Airlines Flight 918 with 167 passengers and crew at Sangster International Airport near the resort city of Montego Bay on April 19.

He fired a shot in the air and demanded to be taken to the United States.

Fray allowed passengers to leave the aircraft after one hour. But he kept six members of the flight crew hostage for another seven hours before being captured in a military raid on the plane. 

At the time, passengers credited a flight attendant for persuading Fray, who had forced his way through security and boarded the plane, to accept cash and valuables in exchange for their freedom.

Jamaican courts classified Fray as "mentally challenged," but fit to stand trial.

The hijacked flight had left Halifax at 7:15 p.m. local time on April 19 for Montego Bay. It was to leave Jamaica later that night, bound for Halifax, after a stop in Santa Clara, Cuba.

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