Passenger Charged in Australia With Threatening to Blow Up Airliner

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) —
A Malaysia Airlines plane is parked at Sydney International Airport, in Sydney, Tuesday. (Bianca De Marchi/AAP Image via AP)

A 45-year-old man was charged Tuesday with allegedly threatening to blow up a plane during a flight from Australia to Malaysia that returned to Sydney.

Police arrested Canberra resident Muhammad Arif and took him from the Airbus A330 on Monday, almost three hours after Malaysia Airlines flight MH122 returned to Sydney Airport.

Police allege Arif had become disruptive and claimed to have explosives on board.

He was charged with making a false statement about a threat to damage an aircraft and failing to comply with the cabin crew’s safety instructions.

The charges carry a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of more than 15,000 Australian dollars (US$7,300) respectively.

Defense lawyer Mostafa Daoudie told Grogin Arif had “serious mental issues” and was “not in the right state of mind.”

Malaysia Airlines said the pilot decided to return to Sydney for safety reasons.

The passengers’ concerns escalated after they landed and spent almost three hours in the plane on a tarmac.

“All we saw were fire engines surrounding us and again people reading the news saying there’s potentially a bomb on the plane,” one of the passengers said.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb defended the delay of almost three hours between when the plane landed and when two police officers handcuffed Arif.

“We can never presume anything and we you don’t know whether this person was acting alone or he actually had other support on the plane or outside the plane,” Webb said.

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