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Yemeni kept behind bars after U.S. plane scare in SFO

SAN FRANCISCO, May 13, 2011 (AFP) – A Yemeni man accused of trying to break into the cockpit of a U.S. airliner yelling “Allahu Akbar” has a history of mental health problems, a U.S. judge said Friday, ordering him to remain behind bars.

Judge James Larson said a pre-trial report indicates that Rageh al-Murisi, 28, experienced intensifying hallucinations in the last two months, including “hearing voices and seeing things that aren’t there.”

After being arrested following the incident on an American Airlines flight to San Francisco this week, Murisi also told officers he “wanted to kill himself my own ways,” prosecutor Elise Becker said.

Judge Larson ordered that Murisi be kept in jail, saying he is a flight risk and a danger to the community. He will reconsider after a mental health evaluation is performed, he said.

“We understand, Mr. Al-Murisi that maybe this is a call for help on your part,” he said.

According to the prosecution, Murisi paid cash for a ticket to San Francisco at La Guardia Airport in New York less than an hour before the flight on Sunday, May 8.

Shortly before landing, Murisi allegedly got up from seat 26C near the back of the plane, and walked down the aisle, saying “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater) in Arabic.

At the front of the plane, a confused flight attendant tried twice to direct him toward the restroom, then called for help when Murisi rammed the cockpit door with his shoulder.

Becker said Murisi struggled as he was restrained by the attendant and several passengers with plastic handcuffs and a belt, and continued to struggle once he was arrested upon landing.

Elizabeth Falk, Murisi’s attorney, said he was a math teacher in Yemen and known as a “peaceful” man to his family. “He is not involved in terrorism,” Falk said. “This behavior completely surprised them.”

Murisi’s family declined to speak with reporters.

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