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Paperwork routine: Turks force Syrian crew to sign 'emergency landing, no F-16s' statement - witnesses

Published time: October 11, 2012 00:58
Edited time: October 11, 2012 22:49
Jasem Kaser, engineer on the Syrian Air passenger plane, intercepted by Turkey

Jasem Kaser, engineer on the Syrian Air passenger plane, intercepted by Turkey

Passengers onboard the plane intercepted by Turkish jets said that security forces were making the crew and passengers sign fraudulent papers suggesting that the plane made an emergency landing and no Turkish military were involved in the incident.

­Hours after Turkish authorities announced that the Syrian Airlines passenger plane intercepted by its F-16s was granted a departure clearance, the aircraft remained on the tarmac in darkness.

“Four people onboard have been beaten up, two crew and two passengers, as they tried to force them to sign documents,” Sherin Azis, a hostess on the plane, told RT by phone. “We don’t know what these papers are about. We are scared for the fate of the captain. He was taken away and threatened with arrest if he does not sign an emergency landing paper.”

Fatima al-Saman, a passenger and a mother of three, also told RT that the captain was being forced to sign a release stating that military planes were not involved and the plane just made an emergency landing.

“If we do not agree to these terms, they will take the captain kind of hostage,” al-Saman said. “They are threatening us. The captain has now returned and said that ‘either I sign the document that I made an emergency landing or they are taking me hostage.’”

The plane has been surrounded by people in masks who have detained all the cargo and were looking through what looked like boxes with documents, passengers said. The Turkish authorities were interested in some spare parts, which a businessman bought in Russia and was transporting to Syria, al-Saman said. She said that as far as she could tell, they were clearly not weapons.

“They started unloading some packages. They opened them, took pictures. There were many people. We all saw what was in there. There were no weapons. You could see it with an untrained eye!” she said. “They just had some spare parts and papers – objects, but there were no rockets.  It is all a lie.”

The captain himself did not even know why the plane was ordered down, al-Saman said. She added that the search involved only luggage, and the passengers were mainly ignored.

“Everyone is ignoring us, making it seem like we do not exist,” she said. “The Russian Consulate did not get back to us. A lady has called one of the passengers and told her that the [embassy staff] are not being allowed to enter the airport territory. They have led us out of the plane where we kept asking for help, but everyone seems to ignore us.”

Jasem Kaser, the engineer on that flight, also maintained that the Turkish authorities found nothing suspicious after opening the plane’s cargo.

“We made the flight from Moscow to Damascus. While we were flying in Turkish airspace, Turkish warplanes forced the captain to land in Ankara. After landing at the airport, we were met by representatives of the Turkish authorities, who opened the cargo bay and began to photograph the cargo. They opened the crates, checked the shipping records, and despite the fact that there was nothing suspicious, told us to get out. Then we were ordered to unload the boxes, so I asked for a receipt. They told us to unload the crates, and then they would give us a receipt later. We spend around half an hour doing it. Then they pointed their guns at us, slapped on the handcuffs, loaded us into two cars and drove us to the plane’s ramp.”

Following the incident Syrian Airlines accused the Turkish authorities of assaulting the airplane staff.

“The crew was subjected to aggressive behavior on the part of the Turkish authorities,” said airline director Ghaida Abd Al-Latif. She said that the Turkish began to get aggressive when the crew refused to sign the papers stating that the plane made an emergency landing. In particular, Jasem Kaser was hurt.

Al-Latif said that the Turkish jets intercepted the passenger plane in the air without any prior warning and flew so close by that a real “disaster could have happened.”

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