Israeli flier spends 11 days in jail after forcing plane to land

Published on : Tuesday, April 18, 2017

planeAn Israeli passenger was released after 11 days in jail in the UK on Tuesday after a judge accepted his excuse for disorderly conduct that forced a flight to land. The flier was so nervous about flying to see his girlfriend, he drank most of a bottle of whiskey.

Zahi Lebhardt, 31, a Tel Aviv father of two, was flying on a Lufthansa 747 from Frankfurt to Toronto on April 6. Flight attendants became concerned when he began spitting and disruptively slamming his tray table, media reported. He ended up locking himself in the plane’s lavatory, screaming and ripping tiles off the wall.

After cabin crew were unable to calm him down, the pilot decided to make an emergency landing in Manchester rather than risk flying across the ocean with the unruly passenger. Lebhardt was taken into custody and had been in jail since.

On Tuesday the Israeli was freed after being sentenced in Manchester Magistrate’s Court to a three-month suspended sentence and a £200 fine.

Lebhart expressed remorse at the incident, saying it was not in his character and occurred because of his fear of flying and nervousness about meeting his girlfriend.

His defence lawyer Vic Wozny told the court that Lebhart had obsessive-compulsive disorder and was afraid to fly.

In passing the sentence, the judge said that the offense was serious enough to warrant the 11 days Lebhart had spent in jail. However, he added, “we have heard the remorse and how sad you are to hear how you acted through being drunk. It’s not in your character.”

However, Lebhart is not out of the woods yet. Lufthansa is suing him separately for the unscheduled two-hour stopover, which is estimated to have cost the airline some £17,000 (NIS 79,000; $21,500).

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