Man ‘gropes sleeping passenger, shoves his hand down her pants

A New Jersey man on board a cross-country  airplane molested a fellow passenger as she slept in the seat beside him, police  say.

Bawer Aksal allegedly pushed his hands into  the napping woman’s pants and shirt as they traveled on the United Airlines  Newark-bound craft from Phoenix on Monday August 20.

The 48-year-old leant in close, groping the  woman, whispering ‘kiss me’ in her ear.

She had fallen asleep beside Aksal, to whom  she was not acquainted, a jacket draped across her legs.

Waking up, the alarmed woman shouted for him  to stop, alerting cabin crew who arranged for Aksal to be taken into  custody.

Police arrested him when the plane landed and  charged with sexual abuse. If convicted  he could be facing life imprisonment.

He admitted touching the woman but was  adamant she had forced his hand into her crotch, according to NJ.com.

A witness, who was also sat beside Aksal,  said that the woman appeared to be sleeping and that he had seen Aksal’s hand  resting beneath her jacket.

The accused attacker’s bail was set at  $100,000 and he was scheduled to appear for a bail hearing on  Friday.

If released he must surrender all travel  documents and be under the watch of a third-party custodian, a judge  ruled.

Additionally he must adhere to a 24/7  lockdown in his North Bergen home, NJ.com reported, wear a device that enables  electronic monitoring and only travel within New Jersey.

He has been ordered to abstain from contact  with the alleged victim or anyone else involved in the case.

Aksal, an ethnic Kurd, fled Turkey years ago  and was denied bail at his first court appearance because he was deemed to be a  flight risk.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Harris,  argued that as a Turkish-born U.S. citizen with few stateside assets, at least  two passports and facing up to life in prison on the sex abuse charge, he was a  flight risk with a strong motive to flee to Turkey.

Defense attorney Robert DeGroot countered  that his client had written articles critical of the Turkish government and had  no desire to return to Turkey, where Kurdish rebels are fighting for autonomy in  the Kurdish-dominated southeast.

He said his client had lived in the U.S. for  more than 30 years with no criminal record or problems of any kind.

DeGroot said Aksal denied abusing the woman  and disputed claims in the criminal complaint that he had admitted to  authorities that he had touched the woman but had told them it was consensual.  DeGroot argued that the scenario, on a crowded plane, was highly  unlikely.

‘If I was on a plane and someone reached into  my trousers, I would wake up and complain vociferously,’ DeGroot argued to U.S.  Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo during a bail hearing in Newark federal  court.

Harris countered that the woman, whom  prosecutors have not named because of the nature of the charges, did wake up and  protest, slamming down the arm rest between her and Aksal and alerting the  flight crew.

Harris said the woman, who dozed off wearing  headphones and with a jacket draped across her lap, awoke to find her clothing  ripped, her bra pulled down to her waist and Aksal breathing heavily and  whispering for her to kiss him.

‘This was a crime of violence,’ Harris told  the judge. ‘An egregious act in a commercial airliner with over 100 potential  witnesses.’

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