A group of young soccer players arrested after some kind of disturbance on a Southwest flight were released Wednesday under special conditions, NBC 7 has learned.
Saiman Hermez, 19; Jonathan Khalid Petras, 20; Ghazwan Asaad Shaba, 21; Essa Solaqa, 20; Khalid Yohana, 19; and Wisam Imad Shaker, 23, have been charged with a federal crime of interference with a flight crew.
The El Cajon men were released from federal custody Wednesday under specific conditions, court deputy Elodia Brito confirmed.
The group left San Diego Monday night aboard Chicago-bound Southwest Flight 1522 when the plane was diverted to Amarillo, Texas. The crew declared a “Level 1 Threat” and pilots made an unscheduled landing.
A flight attendant was “in fear for the safety of the crew and passengers” when she asked pilots to divert the aircraft, according to criminal complaint.
Southwest Airlines said, “several passengers traveling together became disorderly” and “refused to obey instructions from the crew.”
Prosecutors allege the teammates talked loudly, used profanity, lunged forward at a flight attendant, called her racist and a pig, and attempted to incite other passengers.
Some family members in El Cajon question whether it was the team’s behavior or the Chaldean language they spoke that upset the flight attendant and some passengers enough to ask the pilot to land the plane.
“It was just a group of Middle Eastern boys speaking our language having fun on a plane going on their first vacation together for a soccer tournament,” said Tamara Petras, sister of defendant Jonathan Petras.
The group of friends between 18 and 23 years old play in a recreational soccer league on Thursday nights. A league representative said the team was headed to Chicago to take part in soccer games with teams from around the country and the world as part of a weekend conference.
While the FAA categorizes disruptive behavior as the lowest level threat, the charge of interfering with a flight crew carries a maximum 20 year prison sentence if convicted.