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* Sentence slashed for Sri Lankan who threatened to blow up a plane with fake bomb
Fri, Nov 8, 2019, 09:31 am SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Nov 08, Melbourne: An Australian appeals court on Friday has reduced the jail term of a Sri Lankan man who threatened to blow up Malaysia Airlines plane with 222 people on board with a fake bomb.

The Victoria state Court of Appeal reduced the sentence from 20 years to 8 years after his lawyers argued he had been "very psychiatrically unwell," Associated Press reported.

Manodh Marks, 27, was the first person in Australia to be convicted of attempting to take control of an aircraft and was sentenced in June 2018 to 12 years in prison for threatening to detonate a bomb. He had pleaded guilty to the charge that carries a potential maximum of 20 years in prison.

Marks has already served half of his reduced five-year non-parole period, after which he will be deported to Sri Lanka.

His lawyer Paul Smallwood told the appeals court Marks was heading home to Sri Lanka when he boarded the flight heading to Malaysia in May 2017.

The former hospitality student had just been released from a Melbourne psychiatric facility, and his lawyer said during the hearing, "This is a man who was very, very psychiatrically unwell." He used crystal methamphetamine between his release from the facility and boarding the plane, a decision Smallwood described as "ill-advised."

Within 15 minutes of takeoff, an agitated and drug-affected Marks ran down the aisle to the cockpit door, holding a device with blue flashing lights in his hand and threatening to "blow the ... plane up."

A pilot made a mayday call and turned the plane around. Marks was overpowered by passengers and restrained with cable ties as the flight returned to Melbourne Airport.

The drama came after Malaysia Airlines lost two planes in 2014. Flight 370 is thought to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean after flying far off course for reasons still not explained. Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a missile investigators said belonged to a Russia-based military unit.

The device Marks carried turned out to be a portable speaker and a power bank with lights.

Prosecutors argued during his appeal that the fact the device was not a real bomb did not obliterate Marks' moral culpability, but the culpability was lower than if the bomb had been real.

"They are terrorized exactly as if it was a real bomb," appeal judge Simon Whelan said of the passengers and crew.


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