The New Jersey man who escaped from prison, hijacked a plane to Algeria 39 years ago and was arrested last month, knew that the United States would never stop pursuing him. "Knowing the Americans, I always feared that they had their antennas up,” 68-year-old George Wright tells the Times. Wright was convicted of murdering a gas station attendant in 1962, escaped from state prison in 1970, and dressed as a priest, hijacked a plane in Detriot in 1972. But since then, he has married and had two children. "It's a little absurd for the Americans to come hunting me and making me look like the most evil man in the world," he said. "I really should be a role model of rehabilitation."

Wright disputes his involvement with the murder of that put him behind bars in the first place, claiming that he never pulled the trigger and that he had no idea what his accomplices were capable of. "It was a robbery that went wrong," he said. "I didn't know that they were involved in this type of thing at that particular time."

Hot wiring the warden's car, Wright and other inmates escaped prison in Leesburg, New Jersey and he ended up in Detroit, where he joined the Black Panthers. Hijacking the plane would "get money for the Black Liberation Army," and Algeria was where black liberation leader Eldridge Cleaver was, so it seemed a fitting place to travel.

But Algeria made Wright and the other return the $1 million in ransom they obtained from US authorities, and he later was granted political asylum in Guinea-Bissau, the West African country and former Portuguese colony.

He later assumed the identity of José Luís Jorge dos Santos, met his wife in a Portuguese night club, and settled down to raise two children with her. He performed odd jobs, painted houses and lived in a rather spiffy house in Almocagema. Recently, Wright said his routine involved exercise and reading the Bible: "I got rebaptized in 2002."

Wright wants to serve time in Portugual to be close to his family. Not surprisingly, the FBI is unmoved: "He has to face justice here," the FBI agent in charge of the Detroit office at the time of the hijacking said. "The courts and all of us are anxious to know what his story is, and it all has to be done right here in the good old U.S. of A."