Witness accounts claim Chaldean soccer players were not disruptive

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By SD6 Assignment
SAN DIEGO – A Chicago man who was on a Southwest Airlines flight from San Diego that was diverted to Texas told San Diego 6 News he didn’t notice anything unusual during the flight.
Six soccer players with the San Diego Chaldean Soccer League were taken off the plane and arrested Monday night, after flight attendants claimed they were disruptive and did not comply with instructions.

Saiman Hermez, 19, Jonathan Khalid Petras, 20, Ghazwan Asaad Shaba, 21, Essa Solaqa, 20, Khalid Yohana, 19, and Wisam Imad Shaker, 23 — all from San Diego — appeared in federal court in Amarillo Wednesday morning, where they were formally charged with interfering with a flight crew, then released on bond.

According to the criminal complaint, they initially refused to put their seat backs and tray tables up.

Later, when a flight attendant asked all of them to quiet down, the men responded that they could be as loud as they wanted.

Because of the increasing escalation of loud and aggressive behavior, a flight attendant said she was in fear for the safety of the crew and passengers and asked the pilots to divert the aircraft.

A passenger heard the defendants call the flight attendant who refused to serve them alcohol a “racist” and a “pig,” the complaint alleges.

Federal prosecutors also accuse the men of “lunging forward at a flight attendant.” Anthony Lundgren was a passenger on Flight #1522.

Although he said he was sitting just a few rows in front of the young men. “I didn’t see or hear anything like that occur,” Lundgren told San Diego 6.

“The night of the incident the flight attendant said that they were called racist and that they were given dozens and dozens of chances to follow the rules. Now that’s a far cry from being physically threatened,” he said.

A spokesman for the players admitted the men were disrespectful and rowdy, but Mark Arabo said they acted out only after the flight attendant refused to serve them because they were speaking their native Aramaic language.

“She told them I’m not gonna serve you unless you speak English. This is America,” Arabo said.

The players are expected to return to San Diego Thursday. They’re due back in court later this month, however, Arabo said he is confident the charges against them will be dropped.

If not, and they’re convicted, prosecutors said each could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.