Dutch Ambassador to India expresses regret following Schiphol false-alarm

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Friday, August 25, 2006

India summoned the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Eric Niehe to the Ministry of External Affairs today, following the detention of 12 Indian nationals in Amsterdam because of their alleged "suspicious" behaviour onboard a NorthWest Airlines flight headed for Mumbai. Minister of External Affairs Anand Sharma said that the Indian Government's views had been communicated to their Dutch counterparts at the "highest level" and that India's envoy in that country was also in touch with the officials there.

U.S. air marshalls were guarding the flight from Amsterdam to India and according to a Tennessee politician,John Duncan, the American air marshalls "..felt that there were passengers on the plane that were acting in a suspicious way, they conferred with both the flight attendants and the captain and they decided to turn the plane around and bring it back to the airport," Duncan said.

The Ministry's secretary (Western relations), Mrs. Shashi Tripathi met Niehe at the South Block and conveyed to him that India had taken the detention of the Indian citizens "very seriously". India has asked its Ambassador in The Hague to submit a detailed report of the incident to the Government for further analysis of the issue.

Niehe expressed his regret over the incident and clarified that his government had had nothing to do with the detentions. He said the passengers were arrested after they allegedly behaved in an "unruly" manner and were released after being interrogated. He said that the arrests of the 12 Muslims, who according to eye-witnesses, sported beards and spoke Urdu, had nothing to do with racism. The detainees, who had gone to Tobago on business, have since left for their homes in Mumbai and are expected to reach by Friday night. The detainees and their family, however allege that they were unfairly targeted on racist grounds.

Sharma rejected claims that the government had mishandled the issue, saying his officials had acted quickly to get the Indian citizens out of custody within 30 hours of their arrest. He also pointed out that consular access had been provided to them much before the 48 hour time limit stipulated by the Vienna Convention.

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