French nationals in air rage case return home

DUBAI -- The 12-day ordeal of the 10 young French nationals, detained in Dubai after an incident on board a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Colombo to Paris, ended early yesterday morning as they boarded a plane bound for home after all charges against them were dropped by the Dubai Public Prosecution Department and the case file was closed.

By Meraj Rizvi And Hani M Bathish

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Published: Thu 26 Feb 2004, 11:47 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:13 AM

The ten men, all aged between 25 and 30, received their passports from their lawyer in the case, Hussein Al Jaziri, at their hotel last Tuesday.

Among the Group was a French national of Asian ethnic background, Udaya Kumar, the only one who spoke a word of English. Speaking to Khaleej Times Mr. Kumar expressed surprise at the unusual actions of the Sri Lankan Airlines pilot, who made the decision to land in Dubai after a "simple argument" broke out between one of the ten men onboard and one of the stewards.

"It was surprising for me that we would land for this simple reason. We were then taken into custody and spent six days in jail without a shower before Mr. Jaziri came to help us out. We were treated well in the jail and we were able to call our families, but it was a bad experience that I would not want to repeat.

"I do not like to blame anyone, but the airline staff are not very efficient and they do not know how to treat passengers," Mr. Kumar said.

Mr Al Jaziri stressed that the French Embassy in the UAE was only alerted about the predicament of its citizens after the families of the ten men alerted the embassy. Mr. Al Jaziri made it clear that the Dubai Police Forensic report on the condition of the ten men showed that none were under the influence of alcohol as claimed by the airline.

He said that in the air it is up to the pilot to make decisions in situations that may affect the safety of the aircraft. He said the situation did not require such a reaction and a change of the flight path, adding that the whole incident could have been the result of a misunderstanding as almost none of the ten men spoke any English and none of the stewards spoke French.

Mr. Jaziri said that the ten men were not part of a single group, but were traveling in four separate groups and did not know each other before the incident. He said that it seemed to have been an arbitrary decision by the pilot to land the plane and off load the ten French passengers.

"At a meeting at the office of public prosecutor Mohammed Al Nuaimi on Monday to complete investigation procedures, the case file was closed after the prosecutor found no grounds to proceed with the case.

"It is only natural that the French Embassy knocked on every door to secure the interests of its citizens, as it did in this case, but the embassy did nothing more than they would have done in any other similar case. It is unfortunate that these ten young men had to go through this experience and spend six days in jail," Mr. Jaziri said, adding that the money paid to Sri Lankan Airlines was paid by his clients who collected the amount from their parents back in France.

Meanwhile, a Sri Lankan Airlines official from Colombo confirmed the airline received Dh 50,000, which is approximately the cost incurred for diversion to Dubai and reimbursement of various legal fees incurred on filing the case.

"We were approached by the lawyers representing the ten French nationals who agreed to pay the amount and suggested we close the case," said Chandana D'Silva, Head of Corporate Communications for Sri lankan Airlines in Colombo.

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