Monday, January 22, 2007

Qantas bans passenger over anti-Bush t-shirt

January 22, 2007: Qantas turns away passenger over terror T-shirt - Qantas is refusing to let an Australian man board a plane from Melbourne to the United Kingdom because he insists on wearing a T-shirt depicting US President George Bush as a terrorist. Alan Jasson said he was defending freedom of speech through his insistence on wearing the T-shirt. Qantas says the t-shirt was offensive to other passengers, but Mr Jasson has told the ABC he's considering court action...

Alan Jasson, 55, says he wanted to wear the T-shirt, but Qantas says written or verbal comments that "could cause offence or threaten security will not be tolerated." Mr Jasson says he is being denied his right to express his political views.

"I have a right to my political views and no one can take them away from me," he said. Mr Jasson says the ban on his T-shirt is outrageous. "People who have a political view, you know if I say John Howard's a liar, John Howard knew that there were no children overboard, if that's a view at some point you have to say bad luck," he said.

Mr Jasson, an Australian IT specialist who lives in London, is staying with his daughter in Melbourne after he was refused entry to the flight to London at Melbourne Airport. Airline staff argued that the T-shirt, which bears an image of the US president with the slogan `World's number 1 terrorist', was a security risk. The airline earlier had prevented him from flying to Melbourne for Christmas with relatives on December 2 until he removed the shirt.

Domestic carrier Virgin Blue took the same action when Mr Jasson tried to catch a connecting flight to Adelaide, but on a return flight with Qantas on Friday, he successfully wore the shirt. Mr Jasson said he cleared international security checks and arrived at the departure lounge in Melbourne for the flight home when he approached the gate manager, congratulated him over Qantas allowing him to wear the shirt and demanded an apology for his earlier treatment.

"I raised the issue, but I wanted primarily to thank Qantas for relenting when (the gate manager) told me: `I'm surprised you got this far, the staff should have stopped you'," Mr Jasson said.

Mr Jasson said he risked missing his chance of permanent residency if he spent more than two months out of the UK. But the Adelaide-born former Melbourne resident said he was seeking legal advice to challenge the airline's policy and recover costs.

"To be fair to Qantas, they have said I can take another flight if I don't wear the T-shirt but I am not prepared to go without the T-shirt," he said. "I might forfeit the ($2500) fare but I have made up my mind that I would rather stand up for the principle of free speech."

When asked whether the stand was worthwhile, Mr Jasson said: "In Australia today it is very sad that that question has to be asked. "It's very sad that I find that question has to be asked in Australia. It's a very unhealthy situation and it makes me feel very sad. "It's one of the reasons that I now live in the UK."

A Qantas spokesman said: "Whether made verbally or on a T-shirt, comments with the potential to offend other customers or threaten the security of a Qantas group aircraft will not be tolerated".

"People who have a political view, such as saying in my view "John Howard knew there were no children overboard" then that's my view," he said. "If people find that offensive then you have to say at some point, bad luck."

ABC News
'Terror' T-shirt sparks legal row - The Australian

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