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British-Indian Chess Prodigy Aditya Verma on Trial in Spain for ‘Taliban’ Bomb Joke

A British-Indian student, Aditya Verma, is currently on trial in Spain after sending a Snapchat message about blowing up a plane while traveling with friends. The incident occurred in July 2022 during an easyJet flight to Menorca. Verma’s message, stating, “On my way to blow up the plane (I’m a member of the Taliban),” was flagged by UK security agencies on Gatwick’s Wi-Fi network, leading to Spanish authorities being informed while the plane was airborne.

During the Madrid court trial, Verma, an economics student at Bath University, stated that he had no intention of causing harm or distress. The threatening message prompted the scrambling of two Spanish F-18 fighter jets, with one following the plane until it landed in Menorca, where it underwent an extensive search.

Verma, then 18, spent two days in a police cell after his arrest and was later questioned by British intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 before being released on bail. He clarified during the trial that the message was “a joke in a private group setting” and was intended for the friends he was travelling with.

When asked about the reason for sending the message, Verma explained, “Since school, it’s been a joke because of my features… It was just to make people laugh.” He also mistakenly believed that the Spanish fighter jets were part of a military exercise related to the Russia-Ukraine war.

While Verma faces no terrorism or imprisonment charges, he may be fined 22,500 euros (Rs 20.35 lakh) if found guilty. The Spanish Defence Ministry is additionally demanding 95,000 euros (Rs 85.94 lakh) in expenses. A verdict in Verma’s case is expected in the next few days.

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