Criminal Justice

Airline Passenger Who Set Off Terrorism Scare Claims Diplomatic Immunity

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An airline passenger who may have been sneaking a cigarette in a lavatory is claiming diplomatic immunity after the incident on a flight bound for Denver raised fears he was a shoe bomber.

Two fighter jets responding to the report escorted the plane to the airport, the New York Times reports. An anonymous federal official told the newspaper the man had gone to the bathroom to smoke a cigarette, and made a sarcastic comment when questioned that was taken as a threat. The passenger also said he had diplomatic immunity, the official said.

According to two anonymous law enforcement officials who spoke to the Associated Press, the man’s comment was a joke about trying to light his shoes.

The passenger, Mohammed al-Madadi, is a midlevel diplomat from Qatar, the Denver Post reports. A LinkedIn profile says he is a database administrator for Qatar’s ministry of foreign affairs, the newspaper says.

Two federal air marshals sat with al-Madadi until the plane landed, according to another passenger on the flight.

AP says Al-Madadi was questioned for several hours, but he will not face criminal charges.

If authorities did want to charge Al-Madadi, the United States could ask Qatar to waive immunity, a State Department official told AP. If Qatar declined, the United States could could force him to leave the country.

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