An Ethiopian court has jailed in absentia a co-pilot who hijacked a plane bound for Rome and took it to Geneva a little over a year ago.

The court handed Hailemedhin Abera a 19-year-sentence on Friday. It said Monday it had issued a public notice for the 31-year-old to appear in court but he failed to show up. Hailemedhin is in Switzerland, his brother Endalamaw Abera said.

At the time of the hijacking, Hailemedhin's uncle Alemu Asmamaw told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that the pilot was in emotional distress following the sudden death of another uncle.

On Feb 14 last year Hailemedhin locked the pilot of a Rome-bound flight out of the cockpit and diverted the plane to Geneva, where he asked for political asylum.