Man removed from UK flight over ‘prayer’ message on phone

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A British man was removed from a plane by armed police at Luton airport after a fellow passenger read a message on his mobile phone about “prayer” and reported him as a security threat.

Laolu Opebiyi, 40, from London, said he was forced to hand over his phone and supply his password in order to establish his innocence after he tried to arrange a conference call prayer with friends using WhatsApp.

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A fellow passenger saw a conversation on his phone, in the messaging group WhatsApp, and misread the title of the group ‘Isi men’ as ‘Isis men’, he says.

Mr Opebiyi, a business analyst, was then asked: “What do you mean by ‘prayer’?” and the passenger walked towards the cockpit, asking to get off, it is reported.

A detective subsequently questioned and cleared Opebiyi but the pilot refused to allow him back on to the easyJet flight to Amsterdam last Thursday and he was forced to wait more than three hours for the next scheduled departure.

The Nigerian-born Christian believes the passenger next to him assumed he was a Muslim and jumped to the conclusion that he may be a terrorist.

An officer eventually told Opebiyi that he was in the clear but that the pilot had said he should take another flight. He suffered further humiliation when an officer accompanied him to the easyJet desk to help him get on the next flight and seven other passengers from the 6.45am flight, who had left the plane because of security fears, also joined the queue.

A spokesman for easyJet said: “The safety and security of its passengers and crew is our highest priority which means that if a security concern is raised we will always investigate it as a precautionary measure. We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to the passenger.”

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