American terrorist hijacker hiding in Cuba since 1984 wants to come back to the U.S.
American 'revolutionary hijacker' in Cuba dreams of return to US
Almost three decades after hijacking a plane to Cuba and serving 13 years in jail, William Potts wants to go home
William Potts burned with a desire to change the world, but nothing turned out the way he planned.
Dreaming of helping the struggle to uproot global oppression, he dropped out of college, became a Muslim and went to join the Namibian freedom movement. However, he got stuck in Liberia, half a continent away.
So he returned to the US and, in 1984, concealed a .25-calibre pistol in a plaster cast and hijacked a plane to Cuba, among the last of dozens of self-styled revolutionary hijackings. To Potts's surprise, Cuban authorities didn't offer him guerrilla training. He was convicted of air piracy and imprisoned for more than 13 years.
Now, 29 years after he changed into a black beret and leather jacket in a toilet mid-flight and hijacked the plane carrying more than 100 people from Newark to Miami, Potts is optimistic that he will soon be heading home. He said on Friday that US officials in Cuba were processing a passport application he submitted earlier in the week and they had told him it could be completed in a matter of weeks.
While he faces virtually certain arrest upon his return, he believes that the time he has served in Cuba will allow him to avoid a lengthy second jail term.
"Some people believe I should spend the rest of my life behind bars, but that's not my position. I was sentenced in a recognised court of law to 15 years in prison. I did the crime, I did the time," Potts said. "I don't expect to pay two times for a crime I already paid 15 years for."
Potts said going home would help him move beyond what he has acknowledged was a mistake that put dozens of passengers' lives at risk and separated him from his family in the US in a way that has become increasingly painful as he has aged.
Prosecutors in Florida, where Potts was also indicted for air piracy, did not respond to requests for comments on his case. The US Interests Section in Cuba declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but noted that "through our missions overseas, US citizens travelling or residing overseas are accorded a full range of passport services".
Cuba has granted political refugee status, along with free housing, healthcare and other benefits, to dozens of fugitives like Potts – many of them black militants and other leftists who fled to the island from the US in the 1960s and 70s. Many are believed to remain in Cuba, including several who are among the America's most-wanted fugitives.
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