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INTERNATIONAL > Turkish officials forced Syrian passengers to sign fake papers: Claim

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A Syrian passenger plane is seen after it was forced to land at Ankara airport on Oct 10. AFP photo

A Syrian passenger plane is seen after it was forced to land at Ankara airport on Oct 10. AFP photo

Passengers on a Syrian passenger plane that was grounded for several hours by Turkish authorities on Oct. 10 said they were forced to sign “fake papers” indicating that the aircraft had made an emergency landing.

The A-320 plane, traveling from Moscow to Damascus, was grounded by Turkish authorities on suspicions that it was carrying military equipment destined for Syria. When the plane was intercepted by Turkish authorities at around 6:30 p.m., it was carrying 37 people, including crew, daily Hürriyet reported on its website.

“Four people in the plane were beaten up [and] forced to sign the papers. Two of them were crew and the other two were passengers. We don’t know what the papers were about. We were worried about the situation of the captain. They took him away and they threatened him, saying he would be taken under custody if he didn’t sign the emergency landing documents,” one of the hostesses on the plane, Shirin Azis, told Russian TV channel RT.

One of the passengers, Fatima al-Saman, said the captain was forced to sign a document that claimed military aircraft had no role in the grounding of the plane and that the aircraft had been forced to make an emergency landing.

“They were going to take the captain hostage if we didn’t obey their conditions. They were threatening us. The captain told us that ‘I either have to sign that document that I made an emergency landing, or they will take me hostage,’” she said.

“They started to take down some of the luggage. They opened [the bags] up and took pictures. We all saw what was inside. There were no arms or whatseoever there.  There were only some auxilary equipment and papers, but there were no rockets. [The claims that there were weapons on board] are all lies.”

According to authorities, the plane was carrying 12 large parcels containing military communication devices.

Tensions between Turkey and Syria have been running high amid sporadic exchanges of fire along the border since Oct. 3, when a Syrian mortar killed five in the Turkish border town of Akçakale.

October/11/2012

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