A UK citizen, Aditya Verma, is on trial in Spain for public disorder after joking about bombing a flight. Verma made the comment on Snapchat while en route to Menorca in July 2022. He stated, “On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban).” Verma insisted in a Madrid court that he never intended to cause public harm or distress.
If convicted, Verma, a university student, could face a substantial fine due to the scrambling of two Spanish Air Force jets in response to his message. The UK security services intercepted the message and alerted Spanish authorities while the easyJet plane was still airborne.
The court heard that the message was detected via Gatwick’s Wi-Fi network, leading to the dispatch of two Spanish F-18 fighter jets. One jet escorted the plane until it landed in Menorca, where it was thoroughly searched. Verma, then 18, was arrested and held in a police cell for two days before being released on bail.
Upon his return to the UK, Verma was questioned by MI5 and MI6 before returning home to Orpington, Kent. In court, Verma maintained that his message was a private joke among friends. He also stated that he initially thought the fighter jets were part of a military exercise related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Despite finding evidence of Verma researching conflicts in Pakistan and India and potential ISIS attacks, police found no links to jihadist radicalism. Verma is not facing terrorism charges or potential imprisonment but could be fined up to €22,500 (£19,300) if convicted. The Spanish defence ministry is also seeking €95,000 in expenses. A verdict is expected in the coming days.