San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Panama Releases ‘Suspicious’ Passengers

PANAMA CITY – Panamanian authorities on Sept. 28 freed four Syrian nationals and a Cuban man who were the last of seven individuals held for “suspicious” behavior on board a Copa Airlines flight from Cuba last week.

Prosecutors investigating the matter said that all of the suspects had been released due to lack of grounds for charging them with any crime. Another two Syrians, aged 16 and 17, who had been arrested in the same incident, were released the day before.

The seven individuals were detained when the plane – which was en route to Haiti – landed Sept. 25 in Panama City amid an anti-terror operation, with press reports indicating that the men may have been trying to hijack the aircraft.

Panamanian authorities have not yet provided details on the actions of the detainees, saying only that their behavior was “suspicious” and prompted the pilot to issue an alert.

The newspaper El Panama America in a report Sept. 27 cited an unidentified passenger on the flight as saying that the Syrian suspects, during a period of 15 minutes and in groups of two or three at a time, tried to enter the cockpit with the aim of hijacking the flight.

However, neither the Panamanian authorities nor the airline accepted that version of the events, according to the publication.


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