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French scribe held for smoking at airport

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 12:42 IST
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A journalist with the French daily

'Le Monde'

was detained after being allegedly roughed up by CISF personnel at the city airport for lighting a cigarette inside the premises in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Airport sources said the incident occurred when Serrguey Ugin, along with his journalist wife Flora, had completed formalities and were waiting to board a Lufthansa flight to Paris at around 1:30 am.

"Just before boarding I wanted to smoke and lit a cigarette. But suddenly this officer came and slapped me. Some others roughed me up and hit me on my legs," Ugin alleged.

The journalist claimed that there was no indication or notice regarding a ban on smoking inside the airport. CISF sources claimed it was Ugin who "assaulted" personnel on duty and not the other way around. "We don't want to say anything further," they said.

According to airport sources, more CISF personnel rushed to the spot on witnessing the commotion, apparently thinking Ugin was a terrorist.

On being detained, the journalist called up the French Embassy in New Delhi, which in turn sought the intervention of officials from the Airport Authority of India. Ugin and his wife were later left with the airport duty manager.

Ugin claimed that their passports have been withheld by CISF officials and said he hoped to be able to leave the city by tomorrow's flight.

Flora, also working with Le Monde,  said they were on a holiday had spent almost a month visiting different places in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry.

"I travel a lot in India and have been doing so in the last 20 years. Serrguey is a famous journalist in France and he is also a musician. We never thought this would happen to us," she said.

She said he had even given a concert in Chennai three years ago under the aegis of Alliance Francea.

"We are not terrorists. We are only travelling. Coming to India is always beautiful for me. I am aware of the tolerance and kindness. Today's is a very stupid situation," Ugin added.

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