Spanish judge jails 12 passengers who fled plane after emergency medical landing

One detainee is suspected of faking a diabetic crisis to force a Morocco-Turkey flight to stop in Mallorca, following guidelines for illegal immigration posted on Facebook

Two of the arrested passengers are brought before a judge in Palma on Monday.
Two of the arrested passengers are brought before a judge in Palma on Monday.Isaac Buj (Europa Press)

Twelve people are in preventive detention in Spain after fleeing from an airplane that made an emergency landing for medical reasons in Palma, on the Balearic island of Mallorca, in an unprecedented incident that caused significant air traffic disruptions.

The individuals are all facing sedition charges relating to air safety violations and public order crimes, and two of them face additional charges of facilitating illegal immigration. The group was transferred to the prison in Palma after being brought before a judge on Monday.

Another 12 passengers remain at large after they were seen running onto the runways and jumping over the fences at Son Sant Joan airport, which was forced to halt flights for three hours while the police searched the facilities.

The Air Arabia aircraft made an emergency landing on Friday at 7pm after departing from the Moroccan city of Casablanca on its way to Istanbul, Turkey because one of the passengers appeared to be lapsing into a diabetic coma. This individual had already been arrested once in Spain in 2020 for damage to property and resisting the police, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

The police are now trying to determine whether the crisis was deliberately triggered in order to force the plane to land in Spain. Investigators are analyzing a Facebook post made on July 17 requesting 40 volunteers to participate in a plan to enter Spain illegally through its air space by simulating a medical emergency on a plane. The message, posted by a Moroccan national, has since been deleted from a Facebook group called Brooklyn.

The ill man on the plane was taken with a companion to Son Llàtzer hospital in the Balearic capital, where he was later discharged after no medical issues were detected. Officers from the National Police arrested both, as well as a passenger who assaulted a police officer inside the aircraft and nine more individuals who were found in different areas of Palma after running from the plane. Another 12 people who escaped have yet to be located by the police. The rest of the 150 passengers remained on board the aircraft throughout the incident.

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS