'Idiots not terrorists': two cleared of endangering aircraft that had to make emergency landing at Stansted

 

Two men have been cleared of threatening to blow up a plane after a judge ruled they had no case to answer.

Tayyab Subhani, 30, and Mohammed Safdar, 42, were arrested on May 24 after a Boeing 777 heading from Lahore, Pakistan, to Manchester was forced to make an emergency landing at Stansted Airport in Essex.

It had been claimed Safdar, supported by Subhani, had made threats to kill crew and passengers after an argument broke out with air stewards at 30,000 feet.

But jurors at Chelmsford Crown Court were instructed to find the men, from Nelson in Lancashire, not guilty of endangering an aircraft.

Judge Charles Gratwicke described the case as "tenuous and peppered with inconsistencies". He added: "Under the circumstances no jury can properly convict these men."

Prosecutor Brian O'Neill said: "In light of the state of the evidence, it has been decided it is no longer appropriate to seek convictions in this case."

The two were dubbed "idiots not terrorists" after a series of witnesses told the court that although the men had acted like idiots, they had not heard a bomb threat.

Nadeem Sufi, captain of the Pakistan International Airlines flight PK709, originally alerted the authorities to the scare.

But he later told the court that, as the severity of the diversion became apparent, he tried to reverse this decision by telling air traffic control the men were "laughing and joking".

In statements read outside court, both men said they were relieved that their ordeal was over and they had cleared their names after wrongly being branded terrorists.

Solicitor Raza Sakhi said: This is a victory for Mr Safdar, his loved ones and those that knew he was innocent of the allegations he was facing."

The court heard that Pakistan International Airlines had released its own internal inquiry, which contradicted evidence given by its staff to police and in court, only when ordered to by the court.

Barristers for both men said they did not blame the police or Crown Prosecution Service for the case being brought to court.

Peter Rowlands said: "In fairness to the prosecution, it is now common ground that had certain documents held by Pakistan International Airlines been made available from the outset, these two men would not have had to face trial."

Speaking for Safdar, Mr Sakhi added: "Due to the misinformation supplied to the UK authorities by members of the crew of flight PK709, the UK was put to considerable expense.

"Mr Safdar was wrongly vilified as a terrorist based on the same information.

"Mr Safdar was separated from his family and remanded in custody for 73 days as a result of this misinformation."

He added that Safdar was grateful to his own legal team, the prosecution and police for eventually "uncovering the truth".

"His simple lifestyle has turned into one of the most challenging experiences a person can endure. He wishes to move on with his life and put this terrible ordeal behind him," he said.

Biant Bansai, speaking on behalf of Subhani, said: "This case has collapsed after it became clear that witnesses against him had not told the truth.

"This brings an end to six months of stress and anxiety for Mr Subhani and the cost to him and his family has been very high.

"He's delighted that his name has now been cleared and we will press for a full inquiry as to the conduct of Pakistan International Airlines in this case."

PA

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