Swedish Passengers Block Extradition of Man To Iran By Refusing To Fasten Their Seat Belts

220px-Airplane_seat_belt_1getbild.phpThere was an extraordinary moment on a Swedish flight this week taking off from Frösön airport in northern Sweden. The government was deporting Ghader Ghalamere back to his native Iran. A man on the flight stood up to tell the passengers about the deportation and told them not to fasten their seat belts to stop the flight. The passengers did precisely that and the flight could not take off in an extraordinary act of peaceful protest.

The passengers admitted that they did not know the back story but they did not want to stand by quietly and allow a man to be deported to a nation known for torturing and killing dissidents.

What struck me most about this amazing scene is that in the United States, the police would likely have been called and every passenger hit with some draconian penalty like a bar on flying.

Congress wrote a vague provision that can allow the broadest possible application for charging passengers in the United States:

49 U.S. Code § 46504 – Interference with flight crew members and attendants

An individual on an aircraft in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States who, by assaulting or intimidating a flight crew member or flight attendant of the aircraft, interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant or lessens the ability of the member or attendant to perform those duties, or attempts or conspires to do such an act, shall be fined under title 18, imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both. However, if a dangerous weapon is used in assaulting or intimidating the member or attendant, the individual shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life.

You will note that it includes simply cases where a passenger “interferes with the performance of the duties of the member or attendant.” The Justice Department has emphasized that “A violation of 49 U.S.C. § 46504 is a general intent crime; it does not require any specific intent to intimidate or to interfere with the flight crew member or attendant. See United States v. Grossman, 131 F.3d 1449, 1451-52 (11th Cir. 1997); United States v. Compton, 5 F.3d 358, 360 (9th Cir. 1993); United States v. Hicks, 980 F.2d 963 (5th Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 507 U.S. 941, 507 U.S. 998 (1993); United States v. Meeker, supra, 527 F.2d at 14.”

Source: Sveriges Radio

47 thoughts on “Swedish Passengers Block Extradition of Man To Iran By Refusing To Fasten Their Seat Belts

  1. I think this become a free speech issue. You are not interfering with the crew, you are protesting. If I were asked to defend the passengers, I would want a group jury trial and put each of them on the stand. This case could set records for length. :)

  2. That’s awesome! I don’t know his back story either, but as the Professor points out, Iran isn’t exactly known for its humane treatment of people in general, never mind dissidents. Regardless of his alleged crimes, there has to be a more humane way of addressing them than a public beheading or firing squad.

  3. As I former airline captain, I have a different take on this. The article did not mention how this was resolved or what actions took place. I can only assume that the captain used common sense and got the person off the plane, and took off. It should have taken all of two minutes to resolve this and no consequences would have happened, even in the US.

    A similar incident took place at SFO which was far more serious that took place in this one. A black young man was asked by the captain, to come to the door of the plane to have a chat with him. The young man loudly objected after the F/A made a request that the young man pull up his pants. The young man refused his order and would not obey the captain’s request. The police were called, and he was arrested and removed from the plane. There were NO charges against the man, nor were any repercussions from his refusal to comply with the captain. Instead, the young man sued the company for his conduct.

    I had a similar case when a passenger had told an F/A that she thought that a young man was acting suspiciously.. I told the F/A to have the person come to the cabin door with his carry on luggage so that we could do a secondary search of him and his luggage. Security was called, he was searched along with his baggage, nothing was found and we took off with no problems. I told the passenger thanks for being so good, and told him and the F/A to comp him with free drinks for the flight. Fortunately, the man was white and did not make a scene. Had it been a black or minority, we could have been subject to a suit, and if the person would not do as ordered, and resisted, WE would have been blasted for doing the secondary check, and possibly a law suit. The fact that the young black male refused to comply with a reasonable request and a legal order, resulted in no legal consequences is an outrage. Had I been the captain, I would have made sure the US Attorney would press charges against the kid. The only error the captain made was allowing the SFO police to handle this and he should have made damn sure the Feds would be involved in this one.

  4. Heavy handed government regulations (police state tactics?) like the one described will not disappear until a significant number of Americans publicly express their disgust with these “laws”.

  5. What if it was Hobby Lobby’s president and he refused to leave on grounds of religious beliefs, would he be exempted? :)

  6. “Fortunately, the man was white and did not make a scene. Had it been a black or minority, we could have been subject to a suit”

    If we want less poison in our politics and social relations in general, it would help a great deal to stop speaking it. This view seems to suggest white persons have never sued anyone for anything, and all non-white persons are looking for is trouble.

    It is this very 1850s view of the world that results in the draconian laws cited by JT. A pilot is neither king nor lord, and his plane is not sacred.

  7. First off, half the Americans on an America flight would buckle up and cheer an Iranian was being deported. Second, the other half (or fewer) of Americans would be arrested, charged, and imprisoned. Because America is the land of Liberty. Not like Sweden. Or Iran.

  8. rafflaw – you are a lawyer. What do you think? Would HL’s president be exempted on religious grounds. I do know that several Muslums flew Southwest Airlines and acted suspiciously. They were deplaned. However, CAIR successfully sued on their behalf. Know that, what do you think about a religious exemption for the president of HL?

  9. I know for a fact that the captain is the sole authority on board his aircraft and any refusal to carry out legitimate orders can and will result in an arrest. Now in the case of the young man who refused to comply, he was arrested and all the passengers had to be requested to leave the aircraft, and he was forcibly removed. That is a crime on his part. I am only outraged at the fact the authorities did not send him to prison. On some of the smaller planes we DO have to order passengers to move their seat positions to balance the weight of the aircraft. If you refuse to do that, you are interfering with the safe operation of the aircraft, and you need to go to prison if you refuse legitimate orders of the captain.

    It is lunatics who are a major cause of problems when they object to rational regs and orders. The only thing that is a problem is those who excuse any bad behavior in the cause of “liberty”. My only point in mentioning that incident is to illustrate the fact, that even in flagrant cases, there is no punishment for violating the rules Prof Turley mentioned in the Swedish one. HIs concern about the regs in the US are misplaced. In fact, when I was flying for a major airline as a commuter captain, I objected to that airlines policy of not even arresting a passenger for assault on a F/A. I informed my chief pilot that if a crew member was assaulted, I would press charges and have the person arrested. Too bad that some people think that is a correct policy to not enforce rules and regs in the name of liberty.

  10. The point about the person being white was that as such he couldn’t make a claim about profiling, or racial discrimination. Too bad some people cannot understand simple points.

  11. @randyjet “The fact that the young black male refused to comply with a reasonable request and a legal order, resulted in no legal consequences is an outrage.”

    Flight crews have no business becoming the fashion police. In that case it was the flight crew who caused the disruption. Unless there are genitalia hanging out or exposed female nipples, a demand for a passenger to change his or her wardrobe is not a “legitimate order.”

    Your insistence that minorities only are responsible for lawsuits is telling.

  12. “I know for a fact that the captain is the sole authority on board his aircraft .”

    That “authority” does not arise from the Captain. It is granted to the Captain through legislation arising from the will of the People. Nor is it absolute, as the poster well knows..

    One view is that It prevents especially bachelor pilots from bringing their irresponsible drinking, drugs and womanizing into the cockpit. See how ridiculous unfounded stereotypes are?

    “It is lunatics who are a major cause of problems”

    But the poster did not say “lunatics” in his original post. He very clearly said, “Fortunately, the man was white and did not make a scene. Had it been a black or minority, we could have been subject to a suit”.

    I do not buy this backpedaling.

    In another time, I would advise If the poster has a problem passenger, call the police. But lately they often turn out to be even worse.

  13. I believe that no matter how much common sense the captain may have used police involvement would have resulted with everyone who participated being arrested, charged and taken off the plane and on to the lock up where depending on the proclivities of the Sargent in charge the would likely have been stripped searched. “Ain’t that America. Something to see.” It is now.

  14. simms and jh, The FACT is that the problem that caused the police to be called, is that the young man refused the captain’s request to come to the front of the plane. There was NO legitimate reason for the guy to refuse his order. He made it an order, and the guy had no reason to worry about anything at all since the captain did NOT tell him to bring his carry on. Had the captain told him to bring his luggage, he would have had something to worry about. It is evident from that, he had no desire to do anything other than to talk to him about his actions and decorum on his airplane. The captain did as I would have done, and just had a chat with him about his conduct as how he was creating a problem, especially in the event of an emergency evacuation with such low slung pants and then sent him back to his seat.

    It is astounding to me that nobody thinks it is wrong for an usher in a movie theater to tell a patron to leave, yet a captain on an airliner does not have the same right, or there is an objection to him ordering a passenger to do a lawful act.

    I also see that jh cannot understand things too well. I did NOT say that we WOULD have been subject to a lawsuit, in fact, most probably most people of any color would have done as the white guy did, but if he wanted to be a fool, THEN we WOULD have been subjected to a lawsuit for racial bias or most of the people on this site would have cried bias. I had no choice when a passenger made that report to the F/A.

    sims, I wonder how you can think that I said that only minorities are responsible for lawsuits. I certainly hope you are not involved in legal work. You also have huge amount of prejudice and an inflated sense of omniscience since you think you know my politics or history. I find that an indication of megalomania or some other disorder. For your enlightenment, I was involved in the Civil rights movement back in 1964 and a member of Friends of SNCC since I lived in the north and we could not join SNCC.

  15. “For your enlightenment, I was involved in the Civil rights movement back in 1964…”

    Where “they” also some of the poster’s “best friends?” That also appears to be 50 years ago. On the other hand, the poster’s most recent comments on the subject arose this morning.

  16. randyjet is not a racist, come on. I think he is right, the captain of an airliner is or should be like the captain of a sea going vessel. He is “god” while the ship is under his command.

    If he thinks the way you smell is going to interfere with his plane, he can throw you off. As it should be, he is flying the plane for a reason and you arent.

    To many people today, especially the young, think they are friggen Einstein.

    I just hate it when I have to agree with a Marxist. :)

  17. Bryon – evidently is you want to check if he has been drinking before flying he can chuck you off the plane, too.

  18. still only the one report in English. at the very end he is asked about returning to Iran and says he was a Kurdish insurgent in the north of Iran, fighting the regime militarily for five years. which level of resistance is a death sentence in Iranian law. still no idea why the Swedish authorities decided to send him back.

  19. That whole Kurdish situation is very messy. There are three countries involved all claiming Kurdish territory and the Kurds want independence.

  20. What concerns me is that “an activist” gets on the plane and informs the other passengers not to fasten their seat belts, giving an emotional plea to stop this man’s deportation. The majority of “sheep” immediately listen to the activist.

    That activist could have been Ghalamere’s relative or a terrorist, but no one bothered to find out what was going on before complying to unfasten their seat belts.

    I also read two different news reports. One said he had fought in northern Iraq against Iran and the other said he fought with the Kurds in Iran.

    For all we know the Swedish Secret Service was deporting him due to some criminal act and/or not having his proper credentials. Yet, people were ready to save this guy, without any information…somewhat like many who are commenting on this blog.

  21. its amazing isnt it. anyone remember last summer how the young black lady was thrown off the plane for wearing a long teeshirt which covered her shorts? or the 2 brothers also black who were asked to remove their hoodies? yet during that same week on the very same airline a white man was allowed to fly wearing womens lingerie?

    im sure randyjet doesnt remember those.. so heres my question randyjet.. how was the black mans pants hanging below his butt interfering with the captains job of flying the plane?

    the only answer i can come up with is the captain will be so distracted by imagining what is under those sagging pants that he wouldnt be able to keep his mind on flying….. otherwise your post makes no sense at all…. just as no one has a right to tell YOU what to say, how to say it, or where to say it…

    the captain has no right telling anyone what to wear. unless said outfit will cause disruption to captain and attendants and the only way that could possibly be is because they apparently cant keep their mind on their job. at which point I WOULDNT WANT TO BE A PLANE THEY ARE FLYING….

  22. shakingmyhead – I would take the position that the young man with the sagging pants constituted a safety risk in case the flight had to evacuate. I never taught at a school where we allowed it (always throwing the safety issue out as our excuse to the parents).

  23. Unless I’m mistaken, passengers are required to be seated for the most part, in which case the saggy pants would be a moot issue. Besides, had the gentleman warn boxers without trousers, there would have been no issue presuming his parts were secured.

    All this involves is a power-play by Mr Pilot to impress/hit-on the female F/A. A dead-head encounter explains a lot.

  24. I don’t often find myself in agreement with Paul Shulte, but I admit that I’ve told my students they need to have their pants pulled up, their hands and arms out of their sleeves. I demonstrate to them that it is unsafe. Living in California we often have fire and earthquake drills. My first job as a teacher is to keep students safe. Oh, and I don’t think that randyjet is a racist. Some people just have attitudes and that comes in all colors.

  25. Clarifying: I didn’t mean to say that randyjet has attitudes. I meant the young man with sagging pants in the plane.

  26. We have very selective memories. Anyone remember when the US shot down an Iranian passenger plane killing 290 people, including 66 children? 1988 or so…

  27. @Paul Schulte “I would take the position that the young man with the sagging pants constituted a safety risk in case the flight had to evacuate.”

    What about the twenty year old girl with eight inch platform heals? What about the 5’3″, 280 pound man who had to forcefully wedge himself into the seat? What about the man sweating profusely with a doctors note saying he suffers from pteromerhanophobia? Once you start deeming passengers unsafe for evacuation, where does it end? I’ve boarded a plane on crutches with a severely sprained ankle. I was much more of an evacuation hazard than a kid with baggy pants.

    Is it really worth emptying a plane full of passengers and delaying a flight for hours because some flight attendant having a bad day gets in a snit because his or her sensibilities are offended?

  28. Simms – the twenty year old with the 5 inch heels would have been invited into the cockpit and they are easy to get off. Airlines have extender seatbelts for your over-weight man and they probably would have given him an inside seat. Hopefully your pteromerhanophobia patient also has a pocket full of Xanax and has taken a few to get started (depending on the length of the flight). Fear of flying is very common and f/as are trained to deal with it. If the airline has a ‘no sagging’ policy they can certainly enforce it.

  29. waldo – I remember the incident of the passenger plane being shot down. Despite repeated calls to the plane to veer off, it invaded the safety space of the ship, which then and only then, shot it down.

  30. The captain dealing with the baggy pants was correct in calling the guy forward. The F/A shouldn’t have used her/his own fashion sense on a passenger. The captain was correct in backing up his F/A by talking with the guy. The conversation could have defused the situation. Instead of allowing a win/win to develop, the guy refused to talk with the captain. The win/win would be the captain taking action based on the F/A complaint, the guy being able to wear his trousers at half-mast, or not, after having it explained that he would be at a disadvantage in an emergency situation.

    The only good news I can think of for the half-mast trousers is that these young men are concerned about having, and wearing, nice underwear. :-) It sure doesn’t help them in a fight. I watched two guys trying to fight, seriously, on a street corner. No damage was done. They each had one hand trying to hold up their pants, sometimes not successfully. I was laughing so hard I had to pull over.

  31. simms I see that you refuse to admit the fact that the kid was not kicked off the plane for his pants or his fashion statement. He was kicked off for refusal to follow the captains order to come to the front of the plane to talk with him, and then refused the captains order to leave the plane. The passenger is NOT in his home or on his property. He is subject all the reasonable orders of ALL of the flight crew. Failure to follow them or to listen, will be sufficient cause to kick you off.

    I even know of one captain, who kicked off Frank Lorenzo from his flight. The captain has that authority. Diminishing that authority results in a reduction of safety. On board any vessel, it is not an option for the passengers to question orders, nor are they open for discussion. Once you are off the vessel, you are free to do or say anything you may wish.

  32. Paul, There are two stories about the origin. Both come from prison and neither is funny. But two guys trying to fight while holding up their trousers is.

  33. bettykath – wish you had pics of the fight. It is not funny ha-ha, but funny peculiar. I have a visual of the fight and a big smile on my face. :D

  34. Aside from this Swedish incident I cannot understand why people can’t just board the aircraft, settle in, and keep to themselves. It isn’t that hard.

  35. The reason the Kurd was sent back to Iran was formal. He is married and has kids in Sweden but when he arrived here 2007 he didnt have a passport. Which is not very strange since he was a gueilla fighter for a number of years. So he has to go back to Iran to apply for a Visa. Since he has kids here he would let back in to sweden but rules are rules. The application ffor Visa has to be made from his country of origin.
    Unfortunately, ith Iranian government probably want him for being a rebel…which is a death penalty.

    The plane in question was a local plane to Stockholm.

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