Ethiopian Airlines flight 702 from Addis Ababa bound for Rome was diverted to Geneva early Monday morning. The co-pilot then peacefully surrendered to police and, according to a spokesperson for the Geneva Police, requested asylum.
The 31 year-old co-pilot is an Ethiopian citizen and could have left the country at any time. He reportedly locked the cockpit when the pilot left to use the restroom and then activated a transponder signaling that the aircraft had been hijacked.
The Ethiopian minister of information, Redwan Hussein, told a news conference in Addis Ababa that the man has no criminal charges pending, was medically sane, and was unaware of any reason he would have to hijack an airplane.
None of the passengers or crew aboard the flight were injured and many remained unaware that the flight had been diverted until they landed in Geneva.
The circumstances, suspicious as they are, caused no injury yet the co-pilot could be facing a prison sentence of up to 20 years for taking hostages.
Ethiopian Airlines released a statement Monday apologizing to all of it's customers and stating that the cause of the diversion was under investigation.
This type of incident is rare, with fewer than 12 incidents of hijacking by crew or pilots in the last 50 years.