Man charged with threatening to blow up plane in Australia

Police said Muhammad Arif had become disruptive and claimed to have explosives on board

A Malaysia Airlines plane at Sydney Airport. Muhammad Arif was arrested after his flight returned to the airport. AP
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A 45-year-old man has been charged with threatening to blow up a Malaysia Airlines flight that was forced to turn back to Australia on Monday.

Canberra resident Muhammad Arif was arrested almost three hours after the Kuala Lumpur-bound flight returned to Sydney Airport.

Police said Mr Arif had become disruptive and claimed to have explosives on board.

He was charged with making a false statement about a threat to damage an aircraft and failing to comply with cabin crew’s safety instructions.

The charges carry a potential maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of more than 15,000 Australian dollars (US$7,300) respectively.

Mr Arif’s defence lawyer Mostafa Daoudie said his client had mental health issues and was “not in the right state of mind”.

Flight MH122 had 199 passengers and 12 crew on board when it left Sydney early on Monday afternoon for an eight-hour flight to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia Airlines said the pilot decided to return to Sydney for safety reasons.

New South Wales Police Commissioner Karen Webb defended the delay of almost three hours between when the plane landed and when two police officers handcuffed Mr Arif.

“We can never presume anything and we you don’t know whether this person was acting alone or he actually had other support on the plane or outside the plane,” Ms Webb said.

In total, 32 domestic flights were cancelled and other domestic flights delayed by up to 90 minutes due to the incident, Sydney Airport said. There were no international flight cancellations.

Updated: August 15, 2023, 8:24 AM