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Rowdy Passenger Forces Jet Landing

September 28, 2001

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Two Air Force jet fighters escorted an airliner back to the Los Angeles airport after a passenger allegedly uttered an anti-American threat during a confrontation with flight attendants.

The man became verbally abusive Thursday after he was caught smoking in the bathroom aboard Air Canada Flight 792 to Toronto, said airline spokeswoman Nicole Couture-Simard.

Authorities refused to describe the threat.

The confrontation was resolved without further incident, but the pilot chose to return the plane to Los Angeles International Airport as a precautionary measure, she said. Two F-16s escorted the plane back to the airport, and passengers were booked on the next flight.

The passenger, Javid Naghani, was taken into custody by federal agents but was not immediately charged with a crime. Naghani, an Iranian national who lives in Los Angeles, was to appear before a federal magistrate Friday.

Another man was questioned as a material witness, said Nancy Castles, an airport spokeswoman.

Naghani’s wife, Rosa Hinojos, was questioned and released.

``This is not the way to treat residents,″ she said later. ``This is the United States. My husband and I are not terrorists.″

Naghani is a chain-smoker who sometimes drinks too much, has a ``good heart″ and goes by the nickname ``Crazy Charlie,″ a neighbor, Helene Apper, told KTLA-TV.

``Do I think he would have lit a cigarette in a bathroom? Yes.″ she said. ``Do I think he would have carried out some sort of threat that he was going to kill all Americans? No.″

There were 145 people aboard the plane, including seven crew members.

Passenger Rob Arnott, who was seated near Naghani, said he heard him threaten to sue the airline but did not hear him make an anti-American threat.

Officers ``put an automatic rifle to the back of the guy’s head,″ Arnott said. ``I thought he might get killed for smoking while being an Arab.″

The F-16s that escorted the plane were likely responding to a Federal Aviation Administration request after the Air Canada pilot notified the FAA, said Castles.