Jury selection began Friday in the trial of Fawaz Younis, the first person prosecuted under a 1984 law giving the United States jurisdiction in cases involving American hostages abroad.
About half of the 57 prospective jurors stood up when U.S. District Chief Judge Aubrey Robinson Jr. asked whether any had heard of the case, in which Younis allegedly led a band of armed men that seized a Royal Jordanian airliner in Beirut in June 1985.The members of the panel also were asked whether they had ever been the victims of sky piracy or had any ties to the Middle East.
In September 1987, federal agents lured Younis to a yacht in the Mediterranean Sea, arrested him and flew him to the United States in the first such application of the law that gives U.S. authorities "long-arm" jurisdiction in cases involving the taking of American hostages overseas. The law has been applied before in domestic hostage-taking.
Robinson has said a jury of 12 plus four alternates will be selected.
The chief prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Ramsey Johnson, told the court he planned to call as witnesses six FBI agents, two Navy doctors and four passengers from the jetliner.
Defense attorney Francis D. Carter said he would call as witnesses two federal agents and Helena Cobbin, a scholar on the Middle East.