Thursday, June 21, 2012
DAILY STAR, LEBANON--JUNE 21, 2012
AMMAN, JORDAN-- A Syrian pilot who landed his warplane in Jordan Thursday was granted political asylum in the Hashemite Kingdom, a Jordanian minister said.
"The Cabinet has decided to grant the pilot Col. Hasan Merhi al-Hamadeh, political asylum on his request," Information Minister and government spokesman Samih Maayatah was quoted by AFP as saying.
"The pilot asked for political asylum in Jordan," Maayatah told AFP earlier Thursday, after a government source told the agency that the MiG-21 had made an emergency landing at an air base in Mafraq in northern Jordan near the Syria border.
Syrian TV said it lost contact with a MiG-21 fighter jet near Syria's southern border at 10:34 a.m.
It said the fighter jet, which was on a training mission, was piloted by Col. Hamadeh.
Reuters quoted a Jordanian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, as describing the defection as "difficult to handle," referring to Amman's nervousness over a possible Syrian military reaction after months of border tension between the two neighbors.
Reacting to the news of the defection, Syria labeled Hamadeh a traitor.
"The pilot is considered a deserter and a traitor to his country, and to his military honour, and he will be sanctioned under military rules," state television quoted Syria’s Defence Ministry as saying.