Jan 23 2012
UK: MUSLIM Pilot with terror links deemed a security risk accuses airline of racism and discrimination after losing his job
What ‘race’ is Islam again? The pilot, a Muslim, was judged a security risk because of his close links to two alleged extremists suspected of ‘planning to use an aircraft as part of a hostile or terrorist act’.
UK DAILY MAIL Because of draconian reporting restrictions imposed last week by an employment tribunal, the man cannot be identified and neither can his employer.
Despite this, a well-known British carrier said in a letter that the pilot was ‘in a position to cause considerable harm’ and added that it was in the ‘national interest’ to ensure he never flew commercial aircraft again.
During a raid on the London home of one of the pair, detectives found documents relating to the operation of aircraft, a flight map of the UK and literature from an Islamic extremist group banned in many countries. The pilot, who lives in South-East England and was based at Heathrow, has known the men for ten years and rented a flat from one of them.
In October 2007 the pilot himself was arrested – and immediately suspended by the airline – but was never charged. Both his landlord and the other man were prosecuted under the Terrorism Act. Charges against one of the men were later dropped and the other was cleared by a jury.
It was at this point that the airline began an internal investigation into the pilot’s conduct, having been passed information about him by Scotland Yard’s SO15 anti-terrorism command at the time of his arrest.
The investigation heard claims, denied by the pilot, that he had suggested the September 11 attacks were ‘comparable to the United States’ wars in Afghanistan and Iraq’.
On another occasion, while returning to the UK, it was alleged he had read a book on the flight deck which, he explained to the colleague who was captaining the plane, put a ‘different perspective on 9/11’.
But because of his close links with the two men – and ‘secret evidence’ the airline received from other sources – serious doubts were raised about his suitability to operate aircraft and he eventually lost his job in October 2010.
The pilot’s discrimination claim began last week at a tribunal in Havant, Hampshire, where he claimed his employers had effectively ruled that he was ‘guilty by association’. He told the hearing that it was ‘inconceivable that the treatment that I have received . . . would have happened to a non-Muslim or to someone of a different race’. (Non-Muslims don’t fly commercial airliners into buildings)
During cross-examination, Ingrid Simler QC, for the airline, said documents relating to the operating of aircraft found at the pilot’s house were identical to some found at the home of one of the two terror suspects, where a number of computer disks were found. Ms Simler said: ‘One of those contained documents dealing with flight operations of . . . aeroplanes.’ She also said that police found a cheque stub at the pilot’s home for a £10,000 payment to one of the suspects. But the pilot said this was simply a payment for rent.
Although the pilot’s case is likely to attract the support of human-rights campaigners, there will be considerable sympathy too for the airline, which said yesterday in a statement that ‘the safety and security of our customers, aircraft and employees is always our number one priority and we will never compromise this area of our business’.