HAARLEM, Netherlands – Relatives of Indian nationals arrested in the Netherlands for allegedly behaving suspiciously on a flight to India that returned to Amsterdam claimed Friday their detention was motivated by racial and religious prejudice.
Dutch prosecutors said Thursday all 12 suspects were being released after finding no evidence of a terrorist threat aboard the Northwest Airlines flight to Bombay. The men had aroused suspicions because they had a large number of cell phones, laptops and hard drives, and refused to follow the crew's instructions.
Relatives and friends of the men in Bombay remained unhappy despite their release.
In a housing block in Jogeshwari, a northern Bombay suburb, where at least six of the passengers live, angry residents clustered in a parking lot to discuss the arrest.
"My brother is a businessmen traveling with colleagues and friends," said Sanober Chotani, whose brother Shaqeel was among those held. "Indians talk more loudly than Westerners. So if you are happy, excited and Muslim, and don't converse in English, you are a terrorist?"
Lubna Kulsawala said her brother-in-law, Ayub Kulsawala, 32, often flew abroad to sell garments.
"He flies frequently for trade fairs and business. But he is Muslim so he was arrested. Why should he be detained with no calls allowed to family?" she said.
Flight NW0042 turned around mid-air Wednesday and returned to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport escorted by two Dutch fighter jets after the crew reported some passengers were behaving suspiciously. The 12 men were arrested after the emergency landing.
The incident underscores jitters in the airline industry in the weeks since British police revealed an alleged plot to blow up several U.S.-bound airliners simultaneously using bombs crafted from ordinary consumer goods.