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British-Indian faces trial in Spain after 'Taliban' joke to blow up plane

PUNJAB NEWS EXPRESS | January 26, 2024 10:54 AM

LONDON: British-Indian student Aditya Verma is facing trial in Spain after he was accused of public disorder for sending a message joking about blowing up a plane in which he was travelling along with his friends.

Verma, a student of economics at Bath University, was on his way to the island of Menorca with friends in July 2022 when he made the remarks on Snapchat, claiming that he is a member of the Taliban, the BBC reported.

"On my way to blow up the plane (I'm a member of the Taliban), " the message, sent before Verma departed Gatwick airport, read.

A court in Madrid heard on Monday that the message was picked up by the UK security services on Gatwick's Wi-Fi network, who then alerted Spanish authorities, following which two Spanish F-18 fighter jets were sent to flank the aircraft with Verma onboard.

Verma, who was 18 at the time, was arrested and kept in a police cell for two days and was later released on bail, the court was told.

Back in the UK, he was questioned by the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6, before he returned home to Orpington, Kent.

Appearing in court Verma said the message was "a joke in a private group setting" and that "the intention was never to cause public distress or cause public harm".

"It was just sent to my friends I was travelling with on the day... Since school, it's been a joke because of my features... It was just to make people laugh, " he was quoted as saying in the BBC report.

While Verma is not facing terrorism charges or a possible jail term, he could be fined up to 22, 500 euros (19, 300 pounds) if found guilty.

The Spanish defense ministry is demanding 95, 000 euros after two Spanish Air Force jets were scrambled to follow Verma.

A verdict on Verma's case is expected in the next few days, the court told BBC.

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