Syrian arrested after months ‘stuck in transit’ in KLIA

Hassan al-Kontar has been at KLIA since March 7.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Syrian man has been arrested after almost seven months being stranded in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, an official said, in a bizarre saga that drew comparisons with the hit movie “The Terminal”.

Hassan al-Kontar had been stuck at the airport since March 7, when officials refused to let him board a flight to Ecuador.

Kontar, reportedly sought by authorities in his homeland for failing to serve in the military, was also refused entry into Cambodia and not allowed back into Malaysia due to visa issues.

The 36-year-old was left stranded in the terminal, surviving on donated airline meals and washing in the toilets.

He made repeated appeals in a series of YouTube videos, lamenting that rights groups had refused to help him and no one would take him in.

But Immigration director-general Mustafar Ali said that police had finally decided to arrest Kontar and remove him from the airport on Monday, as his posts – which were garnering growing media attention – had embarrassed Malaysia.

“His statements on social media shamed Malaysia,” Mustafar was cited as saying by Bernama.

“(He) was arrested yesterday because he was in a restricted area without a boarding pass.”

Officials will now work with the Syrian authorities to get him deported to his homeland, he said.

A civil war has been raging in Syria for the past seven years, leaving more than 350,000 people dead.

Kontar’s case is reminiscent of the 2004 film “The Terminal,” in which Tom Hanks plays a man who finds himself stuck in a New York airport after his government collapses, rendering his papers useless.

Reports say Kontar had been working in the United Arab Emirates but was deported to Malaysia in January 2017.

However, he overstayed a three-month tourist visa and is now blacklisted, meaning he cannot re-enter the country.

He flew to Cambodia but was refused entry before being sent back to Kuala Lumpur airport on March 7.