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Soon after she arrived, the diplomat radioed for a security detail from the embassy. "There were a lot of people in that room," she says, "and the first thing I wanted to do was get everyone settled down."
Eventually the police allowed her to accompany the flight attendants to the police station. "At that point my job was to either register them in prison and contact their families or get them out somehow," she recalls. "I definitely wanted to get them out. Have you ever seen an African prison? It's a cage. It is absolutely filthy and there is little food. It's hard to describe what it would be like because we don't have anything like it in America. But trust me, you don't want to go to prison in Africa."
Hennessey says the embassy official took the three of them aside and told them to not utter a word or react to anything she was about to say. She then faced the police and the Air Dabia entourage and declared that the flight attendants were obviously guilty, that they were despicable people, and that the best possible course of action was to deport them immediately. Recalls the official: "I remember saying that this case was going to be more trouble than it was worth."
Negotiations, Hennessey says, went on for hours. At one point Mamadou Jaye asked the embassy official if she would talk to Sissoko in Miami. (Sissoko had already pleaded guilty and had been sentenced but he had not reported to prison; he was in the midst of a lobbying campaign to pressure American officials to deport him instead of jail him.) "I did speak to him by telephone," the diplomat confirms. "It was odd because I knew he was under arrest in Miami. He said to me that he really wanted to cooperate with the United States government in this matter and he said he would be willing to let these three criminals go. He wanted me to realize how much he was cooperating with us."
After that phone call, the police and Mamadou Jaye agreed to release the flight attendants, but only on the condition that they each return the entire $3000 they had been paid. "The woman from the embassy told us we had no choice," Hennessey recounts.
Before their arrest, the flight attendants had each taken a few hundred dollars and hidden them in the waist bands of their underwear. "I think each of us turned over about $2800 to the police and told them we had spent the rest," Hennessey says. "We bought ourselves out of jail. At that point, money meant nothing to me. I didn't care."
Before they left the police station, the three were placed at attention as a police official announced they could never return to Africa. "He also told us that as far as they were concerned we were all criminals," Hennessey says, "and that we were leaving Africa in disgrace. He told us that we had no honor."
Then they were herded into a car with the embassy official and driven to the airport. "In the car, we were all hysterical, crying," Hennessey remembers. "We were just so glad to get out of jail. It was seven hours of pure hell." Once at the airport they were placed on the first plane out of the country, which was a flight to Paris. "None of us took a breath until we were over the Mediterranean," Hennessey says. "When I got off the airplane in France, I kissed the ground."
Hennessey, who lives in Miami, is convinced that their detention was orchestrated by Sissoko and was related to the problems he was having in the United States. "I still have nightmares about this," he says, adding that he will never work as a flight attendant again. "I've been a flight attendant for nine years and I loved it. This was my life. But I will never fly again because of this." Today he is looking for a job as an instructor at a flight-attendant school.
"We did everything they wanted us to do, and all we wanted was our money and a ticket home," Hennessey says. "Sissoko throws around all this money and the people who work their asses off for his airline get nothing."
Hennessey says he hopes Sissoko is forced to complete the four months of house arrest right here in Miami and is then deported. "And if I could see him before he leaves, I know exactly what I would say," he offers with a smile. "I would say to him, 'You are leaving my country with nothing but shame. You are a criminal in this country. You were convicted in a court of law and you have no honor.'