The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dutch defend detentions

New Delhi, Aug. 26: An unapologetic Dutch government today defended the detention of 12 Indian air passengers in Amsterdam on Wednesday, denying the charge of racial profiling and insisting that the men’s behaviour on board their Northwest Airlines flight was “suspicious”.

Junior foreign minister Anand Sharma had yesterday said Dutch ambassador Eric Niehe, summoned to the foreign office at the Prime Minister’s behest, had “expressed regret”, but today’s official response from the Dutch government submitted no apology.

Delivering the response to the Indian rap, Niehe told the foreign ministry his government understood Delhi’s concerns but added that the passengers’ behaviour had “appeared to require urgent preventive action”.

Co-passengers have said the 12 had been rude to the crew, refused to switch off their mobile phones or fasten their seat belts, and were walking in the aisles immediately after the Minneapolis-Mumbai flight had taken off following a stopover in Amsterdam.

At the pilot’s request, the plane was turned back under F-16 escort to Amsterdam, where they were detained before being absolved of terrorism charges and sent home to Mumbai last night.

Niehe underscored the speed with which the Dutch had completed investigations, issued a clean chit and freed the detainees by Thursday night. He denied that the men were targeted because they were Muslims, a charge made loudly by their relatives and obliquely by Delhi.

India had told Niehe yesterday that the way the 12 had been treated “was not in conformity with the friendly ties between the two countries” and could “lead to presumption of (racial) profiling”.

Indian officials had also accused the Dutch of holding back the suspects’ identity, thus delaying consular access. Delhi today praised the Indian mission in The Hague for securing the men’s early release.

Officials said India would respond after studying the Dutch response. The 12 passengers reached Mumbai last night. Officials said most of the detainees told them it was a case of misunderstanding.

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