A Muslim airline pilot who claims his religion cost him his job has told an employment tribunal that his bosses feared he might copy the September 11 attacks. The Heathrow-based pilot, who cannot be named for legal reasons, worked for a well-known British carrier but was judged a security risk after he was arrested over an alleged terror plot.

Tearful: The pilot, who cannot be identified, cried as he told a
tribunal he thought bosses believed he would 'fly planes into
buildings'. Representation pic

According to the airline, he was 'in a position to divert or sabotage an aircraft'. Asked by his barrister what he thought this meant, the pilot, who is British, replied tearfully, "I felt they believed I was going to fly planes into buildings. I believe the basis they had for that was my race and religion, because of the actions of other people of a similar race and religion."

The pilot strongly denies the airline's claim that he was unsuitable to fly because of his links to two alleged extremists suspected of 'planning to use an aircraft as part of a hostile or terrorist act'. Both men were detained under the Terrorism Act. However, charges against one of them  were later dropped while the other was cleared by a jury.

The pilot and his brother - an active member of the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir -- were also arrested but never charged. During a subsequent investigation by the airline, the pilot was questioned about comments it was claimed he had made on a flight deck in 2005 about the September 11 attacks.

He is alleged to have said that those killed in 2001 were 'not innocent victims'.  But he denied making the remark and the matter was not  pursued. Despite clearing the pilot of misconduct, the airline's operations manager decided that he might still pose a security risk.

During cross-examination last week, the manager accepted there was nothing in the investigation file to indicate that the pilot would do anything 'hostile' with any aircraft. But when the pilot's barrister, Clive Sheldon QC, asked if the manager thought the pilot might 'fly a plane into a tall building', he replied that it was a possibility. He added: "The possibility is there for anybody if they are that way inclined. It's about having 100 per cent confidence in your pilot."