The Qatari ambassador to the United States said that Mohammed Al-Madadi, who was traveling on official business, had made a “mistake”.
The “mistake” in question was not so much the smoking, which can land people who do not have diplomatic privileges in a whole lot of trouble, but the joke he made about what he was doing. A joke which saw the the United Airlines Boeing 757 plane, its 157 passengers and six crew, escorted by two F-16s to Denver International Airport.
Reuters reports a U.S official as saying:
It looks like the individual in question was perhaps smoking in the lavatory and might have made an unfortunate remark.
Qatar’s ambassador to Washington, Ali bin Fahad al-Hajri was also quick to dismiss any suggestions that the diplomat posed a threat:
He was certainly not engaged in any threatening activity. The facts will reveal that this was a mistake, and we urge all concerned parties to avoid reckless judgments or speculation.
As for that joke, CBS reported that when two U.S. Marshals aboard the flight asked Al-Madadi why they could smell smoke coming from the bathroom, he told them it was because he was trying to light his shoes.