Home | News    Thursday 8 August 2013

Mystery grows over Saudi decision to block Bashir’s plane


August 7, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority (SCAA) released a statement on Wednesday contradicting assertions made by their peers in Saudi Arabia who acknowledged that they prevented a plane carrying Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir from crossing their airspace en route to the Iranian capital Tehran last Sunday.

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Sudanese President Omer Hassan al-Bashir attends on July 15, 2013 the opening session of the African Union Summit on health focusing on HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria in Abuja (PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/Getty Images)

Bashir’s chartered plane flown by non-Sudanese crew was forced to turn back and return to Khartoum airport after air traffic controllers at Jeddah airport said the aircraft did not obtain permits in advance for this trip.

The Sudanese leader was scheduled to participate in the swearing-in ceremony of Iran’s president-elect Hassan Rouhani.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said on Monday that it was not told of Bashir’s presence on the plane until it was already flying back to Khartoum.

"The government of Sudan did not make a formal request for a diplomatic permit for the aircraft which will fly his Excellency the President, either through the Saudi Embassy in Khartoum or the Sudanese embassy in Riyadh, according to the applicable international procedures which necessitates requesting permission 48 hours prior to departure of unscheduled diplomatic flights when crossing the airspace of states in the plane’s route," GACA said.

The statement emphasized that the control tower at Khartoum airport did not inform their peers in Saudi Arabia of the plane’s takeoff time or when it was expected to enter Saudi airspace "in accordance with international norms".

But Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority said in its press release that at 07:25 am local time in Sudan and Saudi Arabia on Sunday, the air traffic control tower at Khartoum airport furnished Jeddah airport with the necessary information regarding the flight route and pointed out that the aircraft is carrying a Top Very Important Person (Top-VIP) without specifically naming Bashir.

"This information is recorded on the electronic devices in both countries," SCAA said.

"At 06:07 am UTC (09:07 am local time in Sudan and Saudi Arabia), the airplane took off and the traffic control tower in Khartoum sent a message at 06:08 UTC time (09:08 am local time in Sudan and Saudi Arabia) informing the control tower in Jeddah that the airplane had took off. This information is recorded on the electronic devices in both countries as well," it added.

"When the Sudanese civil aviation authorities questioned the pilot, Captain Pervez Iqbal, he reported that his plane Boeing 800-737 is owned by Midrock Aviation company which is based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He reported that Midrock aviation company holds a general permission to pass through the Saudi airspace," SCAA said.

But once Captain Iqbal approached the Saudi airspace he notified the control tower in Jeddah who refused to let his plane pass through Saudi airspace.

The pilot then contacted Midrock Aviation in Jeddah seeking assistance to resolve this issue and circled in the air for 30-35 minutes awaiting response.

"He was instructed by his company to return to Khartoum (perhaps due to failure of their attempt)" SCAA mentioned.

The statement said that Captain Iqbal then asked the presidential protocol official on board the plane to allow him to disclose the identity of the Top-VIP to the Saudis. Once he got the approval, he informed the control tower in Jeddah that the Top-VIP is actually the President of Sudan.

But the control tower in Jeddah insisted that the airplane has to return to Sudan.

"Thus, the control tower in Jeddah was notified after 30-35 minutes that the Top-VIP was the Sudanese president and the airplane remained flying for another 15 minutes. However, the control tower’s stance did not change," SCAA said.

Saudi Arabia’s GACA underscored this week that the aircraft used by Bashir "has a temporary permit to land at the kingdom’s International airports for personal use only by its owner and its current clearance does not allow it to be leased to others. The aircraft in use is registered outside the Kingdom for private use and regulations in that state or the kingdom do not allow its utilization for commercial purposes".

But a Linkedin profile of the pilot mentioned by Sudan show that he has been working since 2007 at Midroc Aviation which is registered in Jeddah according to an internet search.

The Saudi-based Okaz newspaper quoted unnamed sources at GACA as saying that the plane is registered in Britain and owned by a Saudi national who parks it mostly in Cayman Islands which imposes less taxes and fees than other international airports.

The owner has blanket permission to land at any airport in Saudi Arabia on the condition he is present on the flight and that he is not to use the plane for commercial purposes, it added.

It is not clear what caused this discrepancy in information between the two airports regarding the aircraft registration and privileges.

On Sunday, Iran’s ISNA news agency quoted Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi as saying that flight permissions for Bashir’s plane had been obtained in advance but that it was still refused entry and forced to return to Khartoum.

A similar situation occurred in June 2011 when Turkmenistan and Tajikistan refused to grant permission to Bashir’s plane in order to reach China where he was to start a state visit. As a result he was forced to return to Tehran where he was attending a summit there and decide on a new route to reach Beijing.

Observers speculated that Sudan’s growing ties with Iran could have irked the Saudis prompting them to block Bashir’s flight.

Sudan twice allowed Iranian warships to dock in Port Sudan last year, drawing concern by the United States and its allies in the Gulf.

In an editorial last November titled “The fall of masks between Iran and Sudan”, the Saudi pro-government Al-Riyadh newspaper blasted Khartoum over allowing entry to the Iranian warships, saying there is no “logical justification” for a relationship between the two countries.

Bashir has generally seen his travel difficulties mount in the wake of the two warrants issued by the Hague-based International Criminal Court in 2009 and 2010 for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide over the conflict in Sudan’s Darfur region.

He was forced to cancel many appearances since then for fear of arrest.

Saudi Arabia, however, was one country Bashir frequently visited after his indictment as Riyadh is not party to the ICC statute.


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  • 8 August 2013 11:08, by Akol Liai Mager

    Sometimes in Jaang’s Culture, Mature men play smartly to pre-escape the blame and therefore, assign boys to start a stand off. This is what happened between the Fugitive and the Fahads on an other side of the Red Sea. It’s the King’s Orders, but given Airport Tower Workers to execute it to maximum. The Fugitive have no gut to stand in the court of law, clear his name and avoid being humiliated.

    repondre message

    • 8 August 2013 13:56, by South South

      Very good, humiliation of gay president of Sudan is what I want all the time everyday. Fuck fake Arabs.

      repondre message

  • 9 August 2013 02:57, by Naath Raani

    Criminal Bashir engulfed. You don’t have to enjoy your craziness Mr. Fake President. What left is to get your in your home. What goes around comes around. The bloods of innocents people is crying on you dummy! This time you be like mad dog that never escape death when is surrounded. Your days are counted. "You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time".

    repondre message

  • 9 August 2013 07:26, by uthur

    By this time, president Bashir should hired more rats to dig for him under ground holes to his friendly nations.
    saudi should not go to Sudan to take the meat for thier soup, Bashir should stop them soon.

    repondre message

  • 9 August 2013 08:36, by Native Boy

    What’s is special with this case n what’s wrong?
    Bashir is barred to crossover a holy nation during ramandon period coz he’s body stained with evil practices which is believed to be "too NEGIZ " to just pass over a holy land such as Saudi, period.
    There4, why alot of writings, negotiations, complains etc for what again? Time wasting! Who didn’t know Bashir, if u don’t write back to answer me.

    repondre message

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