MELBOURNE: A Sri Lankan man living in Australia was charged today after he allegedly threatened to blow up Malaysia Airline flight MH128 from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
The flight was forced to return to Melbourne shortly after taking off on Thursday when Manodh Monaragala Marks allegedly tried to enter the cockpit while carrying a large black object that he claimed was an explosive device.
Passengers on board the flight took action to subdue Marks and held him down while waiting for police to board the plane.
Marks, who did not appear in court due to safety concerns, was formally charged with endangering the safety of an aircraft and was denied bail on Friday.
The Melbourne Magistrates Court was told that he had also requested to see a mental health nurse while in custody.
If found guilty, Marks could face up to 10 years imprisonment.
Marks’ court appearance came as Victoria Police came under fire for its response time to the incident.
Response time records showed that it took 104 minutes for officers to enter the plane after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) Operations Coordination Centre was advised of the incident.
Graham Ashton, chief commissioner of Victoria Police, said police initially treated the situation as a terrorist incident, meaning it would have been dangerous to rush to board the plane.
“We have to make sure that all possibilities are taken into account, including the possibilities of co-offenders,” Ashton told reporters on Friday.
“Or, if there was an explosive device, the possibility of there being other explosive devices that the sudden removal of passengers could cause an issue with.”
Daniel Andrews, Premier of Victoria, said he had faith in the relevant authorities to appropriately deal with situations and praised the passengers and crew for their actions.
“The objective in any serious incident like this is to get every member of the crew, every passenger off the plane safely, and that was achieved,” Andrews said.
Passengers expressed displeasure with the police response, saying they were stuck for hours metres away from what they believed was an explosive device.