India has lodged a strong protest with the Netherlands at the way it handled Indian passengers from a Bombay-bound flight that returned to Amsterdam shortly after takeoff, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Dutch authorities detained 12 Indian passengers for more than a day and later released them after finding no evidence of a terrorist threat aboard the Northwest Airlines flight on Wednesday.
Relatives and friends of the men were angered by their treatment despite the release. In a housing block in Jogeshwari, a northern Bombay suburb where at least six of the passengers live, unhappy residents clustered in a parking lot to discuss the arrest. Special prayers for the men were held in a mosque in the housing complex.
“My brother is a businessmen traveling with colleagues and friends,” said Sanober Chotani, whose brother, Shaqeel, was among those held. “Indians talk more loudly than Westerners. So if you are happy, excited and Muslim, and don’t converse in English, you are a terrorist?”
Lubna Kulsawala said her brother-in-law, Ayub Kulsawala, 32, often flew abroad to sell garments. “He flies frequently for trade fairs and business. But he is Muslim, so he was arrested. Why should he be detained with no calls allowed to family?” she said. “My son is not a terrorist,” said Kulsawala’s 65-year-old father, Abdul. “I’m very upset and cannot eat properly after hearing of his arrest. We spend all the time before the television and phone waiting for more news.”
Flight NW0042 returned to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport escorted by two Dutch fighter jets after the crew reported passengers were behaving suspiciously. The 12 men were arrested after the emergency landing.