Prague, 20 February 1997 (RFE/RL) - At last report, a Turkmenistan Airlines airliner was still grounded in Amsterdam while officials continue an investigation of the plane's unauthorized landing Sunday. The plane carried 173 Sri Lankan Tamils who destroyed their travel documents in flight and requested political asylum after landing in the Netherlands. The plane's crew had radioed the Amsterdam airport that the plane needed to land because it was running short on fuel.
Dutch radio is reporting that this was not the first time the Turkmen airline had deceived authorities to gain landing rights for one of its flights. The radio said that 70 Sri Lankans entered Britain the same day, and others had landed in Germany.
Turkmenistan authorities have blamed the people who chartered the plane for the Dubai-Ashgabat-Amsterdam flight. Turkmen authorities have apologized, and say they expect to have to pay a fine for making an unauthorized landing. For now, however, no Turkmen planes are allowed to land in the Netherlands.