SALT LAKE CITY — A man accused of interference with a flight crew was found not guilty by a jury Tuesday. Atef Bandary, a U.S. citizen originally from Egypt, never expected that a walk to the bathroom would land him in handcuffs and a federal indictment.
I was travelling on May 29th, 2015 by Delta Airlines from Buenos Aires, Argentina back to Palm Springs, CA “that’s where I live for 20 years.” I am Egyptian American
Flight was going from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, GA to Salt Lake City, destination was Palm Springs. CA.
On the way from Atlanta, GA to Salt Lake City when this incident happened.
It was a long flight from Buenos Aires to Atlanta, it was about 10 hours and 30 minutes. Mostly sitting down. Stretch inside the plane few times then sit down again, in Atlanta it was about an hour layover, not enough to walk around basically only enough time to move from one flight to another.
About 45 minutes or more after the plane took off to Salt Lake, I got too stiff sitting down. So I walked inside the plane few times, but then I noticed there was a passenger “later identified and described as Delta Airlines Pilot and he was just a passenger that time” followed me and walked so closed behind me, he followed me few times, I was worried about that because he had such angry look toward me like if I did something wrong. I couldn’t understand that.
then the passenger stopped at some point.
“Later on during the trial that passenger “Delta Airlines Pilot’ said at the court during the trial, that he walked behind me few times, and he said that I looked too suspicious to him because of my skin color and hair and from the way I walk and from the part of the world I came from and he said had the flight attendant look my seat up in the passenger manifest, and because of my name and look he had the flight attendant ran an extensive back ground check on me while I was on the plane”
After that I noticed there was a flight attendant followed me every time I went to the bathroom and if I went for a little stretch.
And I would like to let everyone know that I got diarrhea while I was on the flight as a result of taking my medication on empty stomach after the same flight attendant refused to give me food to take my medications with and that happened after the passenger “the pilot off duty” highlighted me to her, and I had to wait at least half an hour or more so it ended up taking my medication on empty stomach.
That’s why I had few extra trips to the restroom about the last hour of the flight.
I had a friend of mine was on the flight but he was sitting about 3 or 4 rows a head of me, I am also his care taker, he has Parkinson disease, and he had bladder cancer. I take care of his doctor appointments and giving him his medications and I check on him very often.
Every time I went for a little stretch, I went checked on him to see if everything was ok.
Last time I did that, it was half an hour before the flight landed. I checked on him then I told him that I am going to the bathroom for the last time before the flight would land.
I went to wait in line for the bathroom, I can hardly control myself, there were several people ahead of me and I waited for my turn.
Just when it came my turn, I was just going inside the bathroom, flight attendant stopped me from going to the bathroom and there were another two flight attendants behind here. She asked me : “ are you Atef Bandary” , I said yes .. then she instructed me to go with them. I asked for what reason but she wouldn’t tell me, then I explained to her that I needed to finish with the bathroom first, and I explained that I had diarrhea and I couldn’t hold it anymore and I was afraid to have an accident in my pants.
she started getting physical and getting closer to me, and I found my self-surrounded by 4 flight attendants, I called my friend who was sitting ahead of me: Gary, Gary help
and I kept backing up until found myself by the wall hitting the back of my head and found myself fall down and landed on my bottom on the floor., they dragged me on the floor, they tried to handcuff me while I was on the floor, my arms were pulled to every direction.
Gary came and he found me surrounded by the flight attendants, and they also brought some passengers from the front of the plane to assist them, they had me like a human shield for the flight attendants protection.
My friend Gary described it like it reminded him of the movie airplane, and he thought also that they were treating me like a prisoner of war.
My friend Gary kept telling them that he knew me for a long time, and that I was not a terrorist.
They insisted to handcuff me, they scrape my hands and my arms, my bleft shoulder went out of socket, because the person who handcuffed me had no experience doing that, and she even said that it was her first time. I was so hurt and bleeding by the time she finished.
Finally, my friend Gary kept after them to leave me alone, they had me sitting next to Gary for the remainder of the flight. For less than 20 minutes. Then the flight landed. Me and Gary thought that it was all over. But we were wrong.
When the flight landed, the pilot announced to passengers to remain on their seats, and 4 police officers came on the plane “later on found out that delta flight crew called them for me and described me as a mentally disturbed passenger”. and as you see from the video the two police officers were pushing and pulling me one from the front , and one police officer was on my back kept twisting my left arm and hand for almost an hour. and asking me how did I end up in Argentina. They used lot of excessive force on me, I am 5’8 125 pounds and I had no weapons?
They finally took me to the emergency room, where I was asked all kind of questions, if I was Muslim, , then they asked me of what kind of music I was listening to while I was on the plane “ Delta Airlines Crew told them that I had a head sit during the flight which raised another flag that I was communicating with some, or listening to Quran”
We stayed at the emergency room “me and my friend Gary” for about 4 hours .. we asked to eat, they never give us any… I asked for a help to clean up and possibly to change to any cloths because my pants were massed up after I couldn’t go to the bathroom and I did it in my pants…The doctor at the emergency room was so rude, I asked him several time that I need to be cleaned, but he kept telling me that I was there only to be evaluated mentally, nothing else.
We left the emergency room, rented a car and went back to the airport to look for our luggage which were dumped off the flights, we found them opened, they had them x black marked. we asked the supervisor at delta to accommodate us to find us another flight to Palm Springs, but she denied our request and she told me that I could never fly in my life on Delta Airlines.
Me and my friend Gary we drove the rental car home… I never could clean myself up and change my dirty cloths until the next day.
When, we came home I developed a rash, and upset stomach, which scared me of what possibly they could have done to me. I went to the emergency room few days after we arrived to Palm Springs, I took antibiotic for 2 weeks until the rash was cleared.
I was never arrested, I was never charged with anything.
I had lot of sad memories about the incident and how I was treated unfairly by everybody just because of their wrong assumption about me and stereo typing me, and I lived with it for sevral months, I decided to move on, but was very hard, I don’t want to see airplanes everytime I hear airplane , it reminds me of what happened to me on the plane.
6 months later I got a phone call from FBI agent that I was indicted, he said that he interviewed everybody, and basically, he built a case against me based on lies and wrong assumption and false accusation.
I am the only one who wasn’t interviewed, and my witness too.
Also, I was never interviewed by the police, everybody else was interviewed.
I am an American citizen, but I was treated like one, I was no body, I was physically abused by the flight attendants and the police officers based on their fear and wrong assumption on me.
I was accused of a crime interfering with flight crew, but they never asked me about my side of the story.
Usually person is innocent until prove he is guilty, but in my case I was assumed to be guilty until I prove that I was innocent, what kind of law is this? Can I call that discrimination?
and I was supposed to have a hearing at the federal court in Salt Lake City, about Nov 23rd of 2015.
At the court hearing I was put on probation which lasted over 18 months, where I must report to a probation officer twice a month, my American passport was taking from me that time, I couldn’t go anywhere all that time.
I am free now, and I thank every one helped me, I thank my lawyer Brian frees who brought my side of the story to the light and got me free.
But still I have those sad memories about what happened on the plane, and what I have been dealing with for the last 2 year. And I have this fears to travel, specially alone.
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