Re: Flight from Manchester to Phuket via Doha on 23/9/2012
E- ticket number 1572292115732
To whom it may concern,
I write further to your email of the 9/10/2012.
I would like to take this opportunity to inform you of the events that occurred on the 23 September 2012, whilst on board your plane, which ultimately lead to my arrest and detention.
For some time now I have used electronic cigarettes as an alternative to smoking. They are environmentally friendly and can even be used on planes, as I have been able to smoke it on several previous flights without causing any trouble. However, whilst on board your plane, I started smoking my electronic cigarette and was confronted by a member of your flight attendant team. I ceased smoking immediately upon their request and I asked if they had any evidence of the prohibition, I was curious as to the reason why, as the cigarettes are prohibited as they are deemed environmentally friendly. I was shown a magazine and a brochure but none of them mentioned anything about electronic cigarettes. I decided not to enquire about the matter any further until approximately an hour later, when the Head Attendant came back and asked for my boarding card and passport. When I enquired as to the reason why, he informed me I must pay $300.00 fine. In shock, as I complied with the original warning and ceased smoking, the flight attendant took my British passport and asked where I was originally from. I replied by informing him that I was originally from Iran, to which his attitude appeared to have changed for the worse and he took my passport off me.
When the flight attendant returned after half an hour, he informed me that I was going to be arrested and gave me no further explanation as to the reason why. When the plane landed I was held on board and the police arrived. I was mortified as I was treated like a criminal in front of other passengers on your plane. The Police questioned me, asking why I was smoking cigarettes on the plane. I informed them that I was not smoking real cigarettes but an electronic cigarette, and showed the device to him. He then asked me to show him how it is used and he appeared to be shocked as to the harmlessness of the device and went back to speak to the flight attendant. After five minutes he came back and told me he had to take me to the police station nonetheless. I explained that I only had an hour to catch my connection and that I would also like to lodge a complaint against the flight attendant (Mr. ….) for his poor attitude. I was then taken to an empty bus parked near the plane and after ten minutes of conversation with the flight attendant, the police came back with a noticeably changed attitude and said: “I believe you are from Iran”, and asked if I spoke Arabic. I told him I only speak English and Persian (Farsi). He replied in a very rough tone and attitude, and I quote: “Here is Qatar, and this airline belongs to this country. Just forget about your complaint and I will take you back in the police car to catch your flight.”
The police put me inside a car together with a Qatar airline staff, who again assured me that I would catch my connecting flight on time. I was then taken inside the building where they stamped my passport. I then expected to be lead to my flight however, to my dismay and surprise they put me back into the police car and I was taken to the police station and later to a prison. I was not allowed to call anyone nor was I given the opportunity to have a solicitor or an interpreter present. No one spoke to me in English and everyone insisted that I speak Arabic, of which I had confirmed I am unable to speak. I spent the night in prison. The next morning they began to call the names of some of the inmates in the cells. I asked a cell mate, who understood English, why my name is not being called for the court. He asked the prison officer, who told him that the judges are on their three month holiday and they are short of judges and I may have to wait for fifteen days before I go to court, unless I pay £150 in bribe to be taken to court the same day. I agreed to pay the £150 and after half an hour I was taken to court.
At court I was fined roughly about £130 and was taken back to the police station. After an hour they gave my belongings back and again put me behind bars. When I enquired as to the reason why I was back in the prison, I was told I was not allowed back into the country and that they will organise the next flight for me and I will be taken to the airport in the police car. After approximately five or six hours, I was taken to the airport by two policemen who handed me to Qatar airways staff. I was then taken in transit. I enquired as to what time my flight was, to which I was informed that my ticket had been suspended and I am not allowed to fly by Qatar Airways. I had no passport at this point and I was not allowed to leave the transit to buy my own ticket. This was a catch 22 situation, since the ticket offices were outside the transit area. I was told that they will only give me my passport once I get on board a plane. Eventually I found an internet cafe and managed to buy a ticket online.
This aforementioned detail is only a brief description of the horrific ordeal that I was subject to as a result of your airline services. I am a good citizen; I have never been inside a police station in my life, let alone inside a prison. I experienced a great deal of fright, uncertainty and panic. I did not speak the local language and did not know what was going to happen to me. I have been treated with disdain and discrimination. This experience would be traumatic for any individual, in particular myself, as I have been suffering from a serious case of depression prior to this incident and the main reason of my holiday was to recover from my depression. This was the suggestion of my GP, Dr. Williams, after six months of psychological counselling. As a result of the incarceration, I was unable to take my medication which is due every few hours, and my family were worried and did not have any news of my whereabouts for some period of time.
I am taking the opportunity to inform you of the above occurrence and that I am considering taking further action. However, I will wait for your response to my letter before I do so.
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