The Provincial Court of Palma has ordered the release of the 22 men arrested after fleeing a plane that made an emergency landing at Palma airport on November 5, 2021. Air Arabia’s plane, bound for Istanbul from Casablanca, landed in time for an alleged medical emergency for one of the passengers. Some of the passengers then took the opportunity to flee through the airport’s runways to stay in Europe, which forced air traffic to be closed for several hours. The First Section of the Regional Court issued an order on Tuesday ordering their release and agreeing to the confiscation of their passports and the obligation to appear in court every Monday.
Prosecutors are seeking five years in prison for each of the 22 people involved in the events for a crime of hate speech in competition with the crime of hate speech from the air provided for in the Aviation Criminal and Procedural Code of 1964. He also filed a substitute motion in December three years imprisonment for a criminal offense of coercion in competition with the criminal offense of incitement of hatred of the air criminal law. In a letter now addressed to the regional court, the state ministry claims that the criminal offense of incitement to hatred has disappeared from the penal code and that the reported facts, according to the most recent announcements by the Supreme Court, do not fit into the current public crime and administrative offences. Therefore, the proceedings can only proceed for the offenses of coercion. By reducing the charges against the defendants, who have been in pre-trial detention for a year and two months, prosecutors believe that the circumstances that led to their detention did not exist, which is why they have applied to the court for their release.
This Tuesday, the court forwarded the official letter to the prison in Palma with the aim of obtaining the accused’s release. As soon as they left the prison in Palma, the youths were arrested by the national police, who took them in several vans to the guard court in the Balearic capital. The National Police have asked the judge and prosecutor to take the 22 young people to a detention center for foreigners on the peninsula to comply with the expulsion order that weighed on them. When they finally enter one of these centers, where they can stay for a maximum of 60 days, the Provincial Court of Palma must decide on their final expulsion from the country. Sources close to the investigation suggest that the lifting of the hate speech changes the scenario of the matter and significantly lowers prosecutors’ expectations. If the case continues, the young people face a three-year prison sentence after 14 months on remand.
Prosecutors accuse the 22 men of following guidelines posted on a Facebook group to devise a plan that would allow them to enter Spanish territory based on a hoax aimed at forcing an emergency landing. According to the State Ministry, one of the passengers flying over Alicante “pretended to have diabetes,” forcing the plane to land at Son Sant Joan Airport. The prosecutor’s report shows that after the defendants were able to land, they attempted to delay the resumption of the flight because there was no police presence nearby. “The defendants feigned nervousness and pretended to want to go outside to smoke and began a gang disorder in the limited space available on the plane, where they began yelling and rushing towards the open door, although they were required to stay inside the plane.” In the letter, the prosecution speaks of a “chaotic situation” in which investigators began to “shove and shake” the crew and described what happened on the plane as a “riot.” After landing, an ambulance from the airport’s emergency services evacuated the passenger to Son Llàtzer Hospital, accompanied by another traveler “who agreed to do translation work.” Once at the health center, prosecutors say, he was treated by medical staff , which diagnosed no “objectifiable pathology” present, while the companion fled and remains unknown.
A total of 81 flights were affected by the airspace closure, which was closed between 7:49 p.m. and 10:35 p.m. 12 men were arrested hours later near the airport; four were arrested 10 days later in the north of the island; another five between late November and December 2021 in different locations in Mallorca, while the last of them was arrested in Barcelona in July. Three remain unaccounted for.
A similar case occurred at Barcelona Airport on December 7, when 28 passengers used an emergency landing after a woman pretended to be in labor to flee the plane, which was flying a route between Casablanca (Morocco) and Istanbul (Turkey) and walk around the plants. The agents are still looking for 12 people among those who fled. Both Aena and the Interior Ministry are analyzing the possible rulings that, for the second time since last November, have allowed dozens of immigrants to use critical infrastructure such as an airport to enter Spain illegally.
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