George Wright was convicted of murder but escaped from prison
He helped hijack a Delta plane in 1972
He was on the run for four decades
He was arrested Monday in Portugal and faces extradition
It could take months before George Wright is extradited to the United States to serve out the remainder of a lengthy prison term for murder, a lawyer familiar with Portuguese criminal law told CNN Wednesday.
Wright, 68, who helped hijack a domestic flight in the name of black liberation, had been at large for four decades until Monday, when a manhunt spanning three continents finally caught up with him in the resort of Sintra near Lisbon, where he had been living quietly.
Neighbors told CNN that Wright lived in a house with his wife and their two children and gave them no reason to believe he had such a past. “I can’t believe it,” said neighbor Vitor Losada. “I’m very shocked.”
“They were very nice people,” said Fernanda Tavers, another neighbor. “I really can’t understand this.”
Wright escaped in 1970 from a New Jersey prison where he was serving 15 to 30 years for murder.
Then, on July 31, 1972, Wright and four other members of the Black Liberation Army went to the Detroit airport and hijacked Delta Flight 841 for Miami. Wright was dressed as a priest and carried a handgun in a hollowed-out Bible.
Once on the ground, the hijackers demanded $1 million be delivered to the plane by FBI agents wearing nothing more than bathing suits – an attempt to ensure that the agents were not armed. The FBI complied.
Wright fled to Algeria and disappeared from sight. It’s not clear how he ended up in Portugal.
He is fighting extradition, a U.S. federal agent said, and his next court appearance in Portugal is in about two weeks.
The Portuguese lawyer, who did not want to be identified, said Portugal has strong extradition agreements with European Union countries but any situation involving the United States could be more complex. Wright can appeal the extradition request on several grounds and the process could take a while.
CNN’s Dan Rivers and Marilia Brocchetto contributed to this report.