Egypt arrests dissident after Badr Airlines flight diverts to Luxor

Badr Airlines' fleet consists mostly of various Boeing 737 variants. Photo: © Badr Airlines

Egyptian authorities have arrested a dissident who was on board a Badr Airlines flight from Khartoum to Istanbul, which diverted to Luxor.

Flight J4690 was en route from the Sudanese capital when it performed a diversion to the city of Luxor in Egypt. According to a statement by the airline, this unplanned stop was performed for safety reasons due to a smoke alarm in the cargo hold.

Immediately after landing, authorities arrested Hossam Menoufy Mahmoud Sallam. According to reports by human rights monitoring network WeRecord, security forces escorted him and confiscated his passport. It appears that Egyptian authorities were informed about Sallam’s presence on board the flight. Meanwhile, the airline claims he wasn’t arrested until boarding of the flight departing Luxor hours later.

An inspection confirmed that the smoke alarm that caused the diversion was a false alarm and no source of smoke or fire could be found. Despite that, the Sudanese airline still decided to not let the aircraft continue to Istanbul. A replacement aircraft was sent to Luxor, arriving about seven hours later. Both jets are Boeing 737-800 operated by Slovakian carrier AirExplore on behalf of Badr Airlines.

The plane operating the diverted flight, registered as OM-LEX, was ferried to Bratislava, Slovakia, on the following day for maintenance.

Badr Airlines confirms that a passenger was arrested, but states the diversion was carried out “in accordance with air safety regulations and aviation laws“. The company claims it has nothing to do with the arrest of its customer and is not aware of the reason behind the detention. It remains unclear how Egypt found out about the dissident.

In May 2021, a similar incident occurred when Belarusian authorities forced a Ryanair aircraft to divert to Minsk, where they arrested an opposition journalist who was on board the flight from Greece to Lithuania. The case led to international attention, and resulted in heavy sanctions against Belarus.