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06 December 2023

Indian aircraft stowaway granted bail

An Indian court granted bail on Thursday to a stowaway who sparked a security alert after hiding in the toilet of an airliner and travelling to the country from Saudi Arabia, police said.

Indian national Habib Hussain flew from the Saudi city of Medina to the western Indian city of Jaipur aboard an Air India flight in December with no ticket and no passport.

Hussain, who said he took the desperate action to escape poor treatment by his employers in Medina, was released on bail on Thursday after being arrested and charged with violating passport regulations.

"He has been granted bail by the district judge in Jaipur," police superintendent Biju Joseph told AFP, adding that no date had been set for his trial.

Media reports said a desperate Hussain boarded the aircraft by pretending to be a cleaner then locked himself in the toilet, from where he emerged soon after take-off.

The 26-year-old from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh told police he wanted to return from his cleaning job at Medina airport because he was not being paid, but his employer had confiscated his passport.

Air India defended its security procedures by saying Hussain had presented a valid identity card which allowed him into the boarding area in Medina and was not considered a safety risk for the 273 passengers on the aircraft.

Hussain told the BBC that he had been miserable in Saudi Arabia and was "crying all the time" after being tricked by a "network of middlemen" who had promised him employment in the kingdom.

"But I have not been paid a salary for last five months," he said. "Now all I want to do is see my pregnant wife and two children."

Thousands of Indians head to the Middle East in search of jobs that pay more than their equivalents back home.

Indian aviation officials were probing the incident, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the state-run carrier Air India.

In October, pilots and cabin crew were involved in a mid-air brawl in full view of passengers, and later that month the airline had to replace a drunk pilot who reported for duty.


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