An EasyJet passenger facing over $125,000 in fines for making a bomb threat aboard a July 2022 flight was acquitted last week by the Spanish National Court.
While departing on the flight from London Gatwick Airport in England, then-18-year-old Aditya Verma reportedly sent a Snapchat message to a friend that read, “On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban),” according to the BBC.
Verma’s actions, which were flagged by U.K. security services, prompted the Spanish air force to scramble F-18 fighter jets to escort the aircraft toward its destination, the Spanish island of Menorca. An extensive search of the plane revealed no explosives.
“A court in Madrid heard it was assumed the message triggered alarm bells after being picked up via Gatwick’s Wi-Fi network,” the BBC report noted.
During a Jan. 22, 2024 court appearance, Verma alleged that the bomb comment was simply an ethnic joke shared between friends.
“Since school, it’s been a joke because of my features,” he said, according to the BBC. “It was just to make people laugh.”
The Telegraph reported that the fine was originally set to repay a sum equal to $103,000 USD to foot the flight costs of the Spanish Defence Ministry’s F-18s. Additionally, the fine included approximately $24,400 in court fees.
In proceedings, Verma’s lawyer backed his client’s claim that it was simply a joke gone awry, according to The Telegraph.
“Aditya didn’t put his message on Facebook or advertise it. What he did was the equivalent of making a joke inside a car with friends,” Verma’s lawyer told prosecutors. “This boy was 18 years old and was beginning a holiday which was a reward for his school excellence. When he and his friends landed in Menorca, they realised they were in a nightmare.”
The court ultimately chose not to pursue a terrorism charge or jail time for Verma.
Sarah Sicard is a Senior Editor with Military Times. She previously served as the Digitial Editor of Military Times and the Army Times Editor. Other work can be found at National Defense Magazine, Task & Purpose, and Defense News.