Aditya Verma, who studies economics at UK’s Bath University, is facing trial in Spain over a Snapchat text that he sent to his friends in jest. The incident took place in July 2022 when Verma was on a trip to the island of Menorca with his friends. In the text, he claimed to be a member of the Taliban in jest and joked about blowing up the plane.
According to the BBC, the message he sent before departing from Gatwick airport read: “On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban).”
The airport’s Wi-Fi network intercepted the message, and the UK security services reported it to the Spanish authorities.
In response, the Spanish Air Force deployed two F-18 jets to escort the plane until it landed in Menorca. The easyJet flight underwent thorough inspection, and Verma, who was 18 years old at the time, was arrested. He spent two days in police custody and was subsequently released on bail.
When he flew back to the UK, he was questioned by the British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6.
The student informed the court that the message was intended as a joke. “It was just sent to my friends I was travelling with on the day,” Verma told the court, as per the BBC. He added, “Since school, it’s been a joke because of my features… It was just to make people laugh.”
When asked about his thoughts on the fighter jets escorting the flight, he responded, “The Russia-Ukraine war was happening so I thought it was a military exercise related to [that] conflict.”
The court will pronounce its judgement in the next few days. While Verma is not facing terrorism charges, if found guilty, he could be fined up to €22,500 (over ₹20 lakh). The Spanish defence ministry is also seeking €95,000 (over ₹80 lakh) to cover expenses.