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Egyptair sacks pilot seeking UK asylum

Published Mar 1, 2000


Cairo - EgyptAir has fired a pilot who sought political asylum in Britain, alleging negligence by the airline in the crash of Flight 990 off the US coast, the government daily Al Akhbar reported on Wednesday.

Hamdi Hanafi Taha was being dismissed for leaving his job without good reason, the paper reported. Egyptair chief Mohamed Fahim Rayyan said Taha's sacking was in accordance with Egyptian labour laws.

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Taha, 49, asked the British authorities for asylum after landing one of the airline's jets at London-Heathrow on February 4.

He said he had information on the crash of the EgyptAir Boeing 767 which came down off the US Atlantic coast on October 31, killing all 217 people on board.

Taha implicated senior management in the disaster, which until now has not been officially explained. He has since presented a 16-page report to the British authorities on the airline's failings, according to Egyptian press reports.

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Rayyan claimed last month that the crash - and other events in EgyptAir's history - showed the state carrier had been the victim of a plot aimed at President Hosni Mubarak.

"The company is targeted by foreign entities and states as well as people and entities inside the country," he was quoted as saying in the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat.

On Monday Rayyan, quoted by the MENA news agency, said that a joint US-Egyptian commission investigating the crash of Flight 990 had new information on the cause of the disaster.

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"The new data provide truly important information on the real reasons behind the crash of the plane," Rayyan said, giving no details.

The Egyptian authorities have several times angrily denied the thesis that co-pilot Gamil Batoty committed suicide by deliberately crashing the plane.

In a separate case, a disciplinary tribunal in Cairo opened hearings on Tuesday on two EgyptAir pilots who invited two German women into the cockpit on April 1995, Al Akhbar reported.

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The affair came to light recently after one of the two passengers involved went public in the wake of media interest in EgyptAir following the Flight 990 disaster.

She sold German and US television channels a video that she and her travelling companion had taken showing them in "indecent positions" with the two pilots. The identity of the two pilots has not been revealed.

Last week an EgyptAir Boeing 767 had one of its engines torn off in a difficult landing at Zimbabwe's Harare airport with 76 passengers aboard.

The ZIANA news agency said the Boeing landed on a runway that does not have Instrument Landing System (ILS) guidance equipment, even though ground control staff recommended that the plane use another strip equipped with ILS. - Sapa-AFP

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