PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A 19-year-old from Saudi Arabia who authorities say forced a plane to make an emergency landing when he lit an electronic cigarette, mentioned Osama bin Laden and tried to hit fellow passengers pleaded not guilty Friday to interfering with a plane crew.
A lawyer for Yazeed Mohammed A. Abunayyan told a judge his client suffers from unspecified mental health issues that require care at the Multnomah County Detention Center.
U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Janice Stewart ordered Abunayyan held in jail as a flight risk and set a trial date of April 24, saying she believes Abunayyan's mental health issues will be dealt with "in due course."
According to court records, an attendant aboard a Continental Airlines flight to Houston on Tuesday asked Abunayyan to stop smoking an electronic cigarette, but he refused. He's also accused of yelling profanities and throwing punches at the flight attendant and several passengers. Authorities say Abunayyan also was "singing or speaking about" Osama bin Laden and his hatred of women.
"When they asked him to stop the cigarette ... he just went crazy, I couldn't stop him," Abunayyan's cousin Fahad Alsubaie told the Medford Mail Tribune.
Alsubaie told the paper that Abunayyan suffers from schizophrenia and hadn't taken his medication for about three weeks.
Passenger Mark Foster told KGW-TV that he and others aboard the flight were prepared to take action.
"You could tell buckles were off," he said. "People were already leaning toward the aisles."
Asked whether the FBI considered Abunayyan a terrorism threat, spokeswoman Beth Anne Steele noted that the indictment was on interfering charges, not terrorism.
Reach reporter Nigel Duara at http://www.twitter.com/nigelduara