ISTANBUL: An Istanbul court on Sunday charged a Ukrainian man over his failed attempt to force a Turkish airliner to land in Sochi where the Winter Olympics opening ceremony was underway.
The Dogan news agency said the man had been placed in provisional detention, but did not specify the charge against the 45-year-old Ukrainian identified in Turkish media as Artem Kozlov.
The crime of hijacking an aircraft carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison in Turkey.
Anti-terrorist police interrogated the suspect who was taken into custody on Friday after two Turkish F-16 jets forced the airliner down at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport
The man was said to have railed against Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, accusing them of having their hands “drenched in blood”.
He demanded the Istanbul-bound Boeing 737 jet be flown to Sochi where Yanukovych was holding crisis talks with Putin on the sidelines of the Games’ opening ceremony.
The would-be hijacker — reported by one official in Kiev as being “in an advanced state of drunkenness” — brandished what he said was a detonator as he tried gaining access to the cockpit. He was later found to be carrying no weapons or explosives.
The plane, operated by Turkey’s Pegasus Airlines, left from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv with 110 people on board.
The crew tied the man up with rope after tricking him into believing they were headed for Sochi.
Ukraine has launched its own terror probe into the incident.
Kiev has been rocked by over two months of massive and often violent protests since Yanukovych ditched an historic EU trade and political pact in favour of closer ties with its former Soviet master Moscow.
Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) investigative department chief Maxim Lenko said that the man had also demanded the release of Ukrainian “hostages”.
This was a reference to the dozens of demonstrators detained by police.
Turkish Transport Minister Lutfi Elvan on Saturday ruled out the attempt being part of a wider terror network.
“This was not something very serious,” he said. “It was an act of a single individual”. AFP