A Vueling flight between Paris and Cairo made an emergency landing in Rome on Tuesday, November 7 where an Egyptian passenger was removed from the flight. Videos obtained by FRANCE 24 show the man being arrested by Italian police. The flight crew accused him of writing “I love Allah” on a form. It was a “blood-chilling scene,” says our Observer, who witnessed the whole incident and believes the man was racially profiled.
It was around 5:30pm on November 7 when the Vueling VL8522 flight, which had left Paris Orly airport, bound for Cairo, took a sudden turn to the west over Croatia’s Lake Brac so it could make an emergency landing at an airport in Rome.
The crew decided to make an emergency landing because they had concerns about what they viewed as suspicious behaviour by a 29-year-old passenger. According to Italian customs officials, the man was feeling ill and asked for medication.
“He had to sign a form to say that he had taken the medication at his own risk. It seems as if a member of staff saw the words “I love Allah” on the form, which led to the flight’s emergency landing,” Italian officials reported. The Italian police said that they didn’t have access to the document in question.
Once the flight landed at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, the man was arrested by Italian police. Two videos obtained by our team document this scene.
You can hear the passenger shout, in broken English, “I don’t do something, I don’t know something,” “I don’t do problems”, “Please, I want help” and “I’m from Egypt.”
He also seems to be giving the officials an address in Arabic.
“It was the pilot who decided to land,” Italian customs officials said. They added that the pilot did not explain why he wanted to land at the airport in question.
Vueling said, in a statement, that the flight was “rerouted to Rome for security reasons due to the inappropriate behaviour of a passenger”.
The company said that, in the name of “passenger security,” it followed “established protocols” and asked for the “intervention of security forces” without giving more details.
We asked for specifics, but Vueling said that they couldn’t comment on the reasons why the passenger was reported, “if it was about what he wrote on his form or his behaviour”.
'Decisions like this are going to reinforce the feeling amongst Muslims that the West has something against them'
Our Observer, Pierre (not his real name), was sitting near the passenger in question. He said that it had been a difficult flight, with many delays, but that the passenger showed no sign of agitation before the landing in Rome.
We were supposed to take off at 11am. About twenty minutes after the scheduled departure time, the pilot announced that there was an electrical issue. Thirty minutes after that, they made us get out of the plane, telling us that we would be taking off in a different plane. In the end, we took off three hours late.
I was sitting near the young man in question. I didn’t see any issues with him. He didn’t do anything disruptive during the flight – he didn’t yell or insult anyone. I didn’t see him take medication but maybe I missed that.
An hour after takeoff, I went to the bathroom in the back of the plane and saw a flight attendant crying. That worried me but I thought maybe she was crying for personal reasons. I tried not to think about it because I didn’t want to stress myself out. And then, an hour after that, they announced that we were going to land, without giving us any additional information.
'We wondered what was going on, if it was a bomb…'
People were grumbling a bit. Some of the Egyptian passengers were joking about it, including the young man in question.
The plane landed and, around 6pm, a woman sitting near the young man stood up to go to the bathroom. She said it was an emergency, but a flight attendant yelled at her to stay seated and said that the police were on board and that they were in the midst of an emergency procedure. We started wondering what was going on, if it was a bomb… then, quickly, at about 6:15pm, the police were on board and they took the young man, who was yelling that he hadn’t done anything.
Decisions like this are going to reinforce the feeling amongst Muslims that the West has something against them
Italian customs officials have said, contrary to what the Italian media reported, that there were no elite sharpshooters on the runway when the man was taken off the plane, just “a normal security system, with armed police”.
The man was quickly released. The same authorities reported that no “legal action” was taken.
A source in Egypt, who spoke to the passenger’s friends and family in his village, told our team on November 10 that the man had finally reached Egypt. However, we were unable to obtain more information by the time this article went to publication.