An Air France flight en route from Paris to New Delhi had to make an emergency landing at Sofia Airport in Bulgaria because of the disruptive and threatening behaviour of an Indian passenger, Reuters reported on Saturday. The incident took place on Friday.
The man, whose name was not revealed, was taken off the aircraft and has been charged with endangering flight safety. If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
He was later detained for 72 hours, Sofia City Prosecutor Iliana Kirilova said, according to PTI. “After the troublemaker’s detention, the flight proceeded to its destination,” Krilova said.
Ivailo Angelov, an official at Bulgaria’s National Investigation Agency, told Reuters that the man began to act up soon after take-off, quarrelling with other passengers, assaulting a flight attendant and pummeling the cockpit’s door.
A purported video of the incident, shared by Congress leader Gaurav Pandhi, shows the man, wearing a white sweater and mouthing profanities at another passenger. He also shouts slogans in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Modi, my brother Modi...Modi, Modi,” the man says. “Modi is calling, come here.”
He can be also be heard making disparaging comments about the passenger’s identity, saying things like “Jesus will have to leave,” and “Udta Punjab”, a possible reference to a Bollywood film by that name, which explores the rampant drug culture in the north Indian state.
As the flight attendants and other passengers try to pacify him, the man threatens to hit them. He then seems to have a sudden outburst, as he loudly yells, “Jai Hind...Modi,” and starts to scream incoherently. A few seconds later, he goes back to abusing and threatening those around him.
Ivailo Angelov said there was no reasonable explanation for the man’s behaviour. “We are investigating both his actions and his motives,” the investigation agency official added.
The man has been provided with a court-appointed defence lawyer and an interpreter. The Embassy of India in Bulgaria has also been informed about his unruly behaviour.
“He realises what he has done but does not behave quite adequately,” Angelov said.