Three Pakistan cricket players questioned by British police over claims they were involved in a spot-fixing scandal returned home to protests by angry cricket-lovers Saturday.
Test team captain Salman Butt and bowlers Muhammad Aamer and Muhammad Asif landed in the eastern city of Lahore in time for the Muslim holiday of Eid, arriving at 4:20am (23:20 GMT) on a Kuwait Airways flight from London.
A few hundred protesters picketed the airport with banners and waved shoes as a sign of the players’ disgrace.
But they did not get a chance to confront the accused three as the players were whisked away through a back exit.
“To avoid any untoward situation, the players were sent home with security from a separate cargo gate,” an airport official said.
Police questioned the three over claims in the British News of The World newspaper that they took money to deliberately bowl no-balls in a Test match against England at Lord’s last month.
The players, who have denied any wrongdoing, were released without charge after being quizzed at a London police station on September 3.
Dozens of the cricketers’ relatives, anticipating protests, brought their own pro-player demonstration to the arrivals hall of Lahore airport, chanting and carrying posters of Butt that read: “Long live Salman Butt” and “Down to English media.”
Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik said the players had returned home for Eid after requests from their parents and the Pakistan Cricket Board.
But they remain under investigation and are willing to return to Britain for further questioning, he said.