Belarus arrests journalist: 4 more cases in which countries forced plane to land to detain passengers – 26/05/2021 – Worldwide

The forcible hijacking of a Ryanair airliner to the Belarusian capital on Sunday (23) and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board sparked outrage in several parts of the world.

The civilian plane was flying from Greece to Lithuania, passing through Belarusian airspace, when the local government sent a jet fighter to intercept it, claiming there was a bomb threat.

The pilots of the Ryanair flight were forced to follow the instructions of the military plane.

The events were condemned by the European Union and the United States.

But has something like this ever happened?

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Western countries of hypocrisy, saying nations “have reacted differently to similar events in other countries in the past.”

She notably referred to an incident eight years ago involving the plane of then-Bolivian President Evo Morales.

The BBC has listed other previous incidents in which planes were allegedly forced to land.

2013: the plane of the Bolivian president lands in Vienna

In July 2013, then-president Evo Morales was returning to Bolivia from a dome in Moscow, when his plane had to divert to the airport in Vienna, Austria, after several other European countries apparently refused him. authorization to enter your airspace.

Bolivia said there was a “big lie” that US secret whistleblower Edward Snowden – then in hiding at a Moscow airport – was on board the presidential plane.

France later apologized to the Bolivian government for “late confirmation of the authorization” to enter French airspace, accusing “of contradictory information”.

However, the comparison to Sunday’s incident in Belarus is not perfect, as Evo’s plane was not intercepted by fighters and forced to land – it was forced to land because he was not allowed to enter the airspace of other countries.

The Bolivian president also traveled in a state-owned aircraft, rather than a civilian commercial airliner.

The United Nations Civil Aviation Agency (ICAO) said it was very concerned about an “apparent forced landing” in the Belarus incident, which could be “a violation of the Chicago Convention” which sets the rules access to airspace and aircraft safety.

The Chicago Convention of 1944 applies to civil aircraft, such as the Ryanair flight, but not to official aircraft, such as presidential or military aircraft.

2010: Sunni activist arrested by Iran

Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of Jundullah, a violent Sunni rebel group, was arrested by Iran in February 2010. The state-run news agency Irna later said he was traveling to an Arab country via Pakistan before his arrest .

“His plane was ordered to land and he was arrested after the plane was searched,” Iranian deputy Mohammed Dehgan said, quoted by AFP news agency.

Other reports at the time indicated that Rigi was on a commercial flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan that landed in Iran, where he was arrested.

But there have been conflicting reports – mostly in the US press – suggesting that Pakistan has offered to help detain Rigi.

The BBC has not been able to independently verify how Rigi was taken into Iranian detention. Iran’s claims that its jets forced a commercial plane to land in Iran may not be correct.

The activist was executed in June 2010.

1985: American planes intercept a plane with hijackers on board

In October 1985, an Egyptian plane carrying suspected Palestinian militants was intercepted by American fighters and forced to land at an American base in Italy.

The Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro had been hijacked in the Mediterranean with hundreds of people on board, and an elderly American Jewish passenger was killed.

The four Palestinian Liberation Front activists escaped after allowing Achille Lauro to land in Egypt. They attempted to flee Egypt on a chartered plane from Egyptair, which took them to Tunis.

The plane was intercepted by F-16 jets in international airspace over the Mediterranean, according to a Los Angeles Times report at the time, and escorted to US base in Sigonella, Sicily. .

The four kidnappers were tried and sentenced to long prison terms in Italy.

1956: The arrest of the leaders of the Algerian independence movement

On October 22, 1956, five leaders of the Algerian independence movement, the FLN, were on a civilian flight from Rabat, Morocco, to Tunis, reports Ahmed Rouaba of BBC Arabic, the BBC’s Arab news service. They were to attend a conference on the future of the Maghreb region, organized by then Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba.

Algeria was a French colony at the time and the French secret service sent fighters to intercept the passenger plane, forcing it to land in Algeria.

The events sparked revolt in Morocco and Tunisia.

Among the five prisoners was Ahmed Ben Bella, who became the first president of Algeria after independence from France. He died in 2012, at the age of 95.

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