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A former American Airlines mechanic accused of sabotaging a passenger aircraft pleads not guilty

Daniel Pontet

A former American Airlines mechanic accused of trying to sabotage a commercial airliner entered a plea of not guilty on Friday.

During an arraignment hearing, Ahmed Alani, 60, was led into a Miami federal court wearing shackles on both his arms and legs. Alani’s wife was also present at the hearing.

A grand jury indicted Alani on Thursday for willfully attempting to damage, destroy, disable and wreck a civil aircraft, according to the indictment. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Alani allegedly tried to damage or disable an aircraft’s air data module (ADM) system, which reports aircraft speed, pitch and other critical data, on July 17. The plane was set to fly from Miami to the Bahamas with 150 people on board, but the takeoff was aborted when pilots noticed an error related to the ADM system.

No terror-related charges have been filed, but a federal judge denied bond for Alani on Wednesday, stating that he might “be … sympathetic to terrorists.”

At the bond hearing, Assistant US Attorney Maria Medetis revealed that Alani had downloaded an ISIS video on his phone that he forwarded to an unknown person. Medetis also said that Alani told a coworker that he had traveled to Iraq to visit his brother, who he said was a member of ISIS.

Following Friday’s hearing, Alani’s attorney, Jonathan Meltz, said the case had “nothing to do with terrorism.”

Meltz said it’s premature to discuss the evidence presented by Medetis during Wednesday’s hearing.

“What you heard in court is hearsay. You heard one side of events. As you know, there are three sides to every story,” he said.

Meltz added that Alani’s family was shocked by the allegations made in court. “They deny everything and are looking to get the truth out,” he said.

The attorney said he has requested a jury trial.

Mechanic said he wanted overtime

According to court documents, Alani told investigators that he was upset over a contract dispute between union workers and the airlines, and the dispute had cost him money. He allegedly explained that he tampered with the aircraft so he could get overtime pay for working on the plane.

American Airlines fired Alani on September 7, spokeswoman Alexis Aran Coello told CNN.

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