Syrian Military Jet Pilot Defects To Jordan; Jordan Grants Political Asylum
Jordan has granted the pilot of a Syrian military fighter jet, a MiG-21, political asylum in Jordan after the pilot flew his airplane from Syria to Jordan where he landed, at the King Hussein Royal Jordanian Air Base, and promptly announced his defection.
The pilot, Col. Hassan Mirei al-Hamadeh, was escorted by Jordanian fighter jets and after landing was immediately debriefed. He reportedly was also carrying documents and unspecified intelligence related files that have been handed over to Jordan. A Jordanian security official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, has said that Jordan plans to share the information with Israel and the United States.
Member of the Free Syrian Army also reported a military jet flying low over Daraa heading in the direction or Jordan. The Syrian state news agency, SANA, is reporting that Syria lost contact with a plane while on a training mission but gave no further details. The fighter jet apparently took off from al-Dumair military airport northeast of Damascus.
Jordanian officials said they have granted political asylum on "humanitarian grounds" because the pilot would likely be tortured if he returned to Syrian.
The Syrian Defense Ministry has called the pilot a "traitor" and said Syria is trying to retrieve the plane is lists as stolen.
Syria has been embroiled in a near civil war that started more than a year ago with as the Arab Spring spread to Syria. Protestors demanded reforms but Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resisted and has tried to put down the demonstrations with military force and violence. Since then, protestors have also demanded Assad step down from power.