Family of Brierfield plane terror suspect say ‘he is no terrorist’

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The family of a Brierfield man arrested and charged with threatening to blow up an aeroplane has said “he is no terrorist.”

Tayyab Subhani (31), of Townley Street, and his friend Mohammed Safdar (41) were arrested by armed police after the aircraft was escorted by an RAF Typhoon jet fighter and redirected to Stansted Airport in Essex instead of Manchester. The pair were charged with endangering an aircraft, which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment, and appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court this week where they were remanded in custody.

But, speaking from the family home, Tayyab’s brother said the whole thing was a misunderstanding and said Tayyab’s wife and disabled mother were struggling to cope with the events of the last few days.

The 32-year-old brother, who did not want to be named, said the entire family was still in shock and added the incident on the plane had been exaggerated. He also said he believes the killing of soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich two days earlier had placed “increased political pressure” on the authorities.

Tayyab, who works at Morrisons in Nelson and as a taxi driver in Burnley, and dad-of-three Mohammed, a restaurant worker, had been travelling back from Pakistan last Friday on the Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777 from Lahore after attending the funeral of Mohammed’s mother. Tayyab also used the opportunity to visit his grandfather who had broken his hip, during the two-week trip.

Tayyab’s brother, who travelled down to Chelmsford for the court hearing, added: “It’s shocking. They are hard-working, working class people who pay taxes and have no problem with any race, colour, or ethnic group.

“There were lots of people from the North-West who we know on that flight and since it happened we’ve have had lots of people coming round to the house to show their support.”

Speaking about when he learned of his brother’s arrest, he said: “I was at the mosque for Friday prayers. It was about 2-30pm when I finished prayers and I rang home to ask if my brother was back. My mum said to me ‘you need to get home, there’s something on the news.’

“I was really worried, we didn’t expect anything like this to happen to us.

“I think there’s a lot of political pressure because of what happened in Woolwich but those people were doing the work of the devil not Islam. I hope those responsible for that rot in hell.”

He said his brother, a former Mansfield High School pupil, and his friend had been trying to help an elderly lady on the flight who was feeling unwell and a heated argument broke out with cabin crew.

“Tayyab and Mohammed are totally innocent. They are really nice peace-loving men and both help to run a spiritual gathering at Brierfield Community Centre. They’ve helped to get hundreds of youths off the streets and teach them respect. They wouldn’t do anything like this. They are not terrorists.

“I still can’t believe it’s happened I’m in shock. I’ve spoken to Tayyab and he is fine. He knows he hasn’t done anything wrong.”

Tayyab’s niece added: “My uncle and Mohammed are really good men. They have been wrongly accused.”

The allegation is that the defendants made false threats that the “crew and passengers would be killed and the aircraft blown up before landing which was false, misleading or deceptive.”

In court the defendants both spoke only to confirm their names and addresses, but their lawyers said they would deny the charge.

The RAF jet shadowed the Boeing 777 after its pilot reported the alleged threat. There have been suggestions that a fight took place on the plane and a passenger claimed that cabin crew had said two men had repeatedly tried to get into the plane’s cockpit.

The two are to appear before Chelmsford Crown Court on August 5th for a plea and case management hearing.