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Yogyakarta: An Italian painter has been arrested on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for allegedly making a hoax bomb threat to a flight after his wife failed to get a seat on it, police said yesterday.
Andrea Giovanni Sorteni, 48, could be charged with terrorism offences over the bomb threat, which sparked panic and caused the flight from Yogyakarta in central Java to be delayed by several hours.
Indonesia has been hit by deadly bombings over the decade and the hoax came at a sensitive time -- two days after Bali marked the 10th anniversary of Islamist attacks that killed 202 people, including foreign tourists.
The artist, who denies making the threat, became upset when his Indonesian wife was not allowed on the flight after low-cost domestic carrier Lion Air said her ticket was out of date, according to police.
“He was very angry knowing that his wife could not fly back home and called Lion Air and said there were explosive materials on the flight to Bali,” Yogyakarta police spokeswoman Ani Pudjiastuti said.
Passengers waiting for the October 14 flight to take off became panicky on hearing about the threat, but a police search of the plane turned up no explosives, she said.
Sorteni was arrested on October 17 in Denpasar on Bali, where he was living with his wife, after he was tracked down through the mobile phone he allegedly used to make the threats, police said.
He was taken to Yogyakarta and remains in custody while the police investigation continues, the spokeswoman said.
She said he could be charged under terrorism laws or under laws that ban spreading false information through electronic means.
Lion Air spokesman Edward Sirait said the incident was regrettable. “We’re an industry which is highly sensitive to any information that could risk our passengers’ safety,” he said.