Images of Turkish planes are old and do not show deportation of Ugandan activist from Turkey

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Multiple posts claiming to show a plane bringing Ugandan activist Fred Lumbuye home following his reported arrest in Turkey earlier this month have been shared more than a hundred times online. However, while Lumbuye’s whereabouts are still unknown, with Ugandan officials insisting he remains in Turkey awaiting deportation, the images shared online are all old and provide no evidence of his return.

On August 7, 2021, this Facebook post published in a local language, Luganda, shared images of a Turkish Airlines plane on a runway, with a caption translated into English that reads: “A plane belonging to state-owned Turkish Airlines in which Lumbuye travelled in at Entebbe Airport".

A screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on August 16, 2021

Similar claims were shared on Facebook here, here and here.

Lumbuye, a Ugandan blogger, activist and fierce critic of President Yoweri Museveni, was arrested in Turkey on August 3, 2021.

Ugandan police said Lumbuye is facing 15 criminal charges, among them inciting violence, promoting false information and computer misuse. This report in Ugandan media described Lumbuye as being behind the recent false claims (debunked by AFP Fact Check here) that Museveni had died.

A screenshot of a news report showing Fred Lumbuye, taken on August 20, 2021

His detention and planned deportation were confirmed by Uganda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Henry Oryem Okello, at a press conference on August 6, 2021.

“Lumbuye is in the custody of Turkish authorities together with other Ugandans. They are under the process of deportation and en route to the country (Uganda). They will arrive in the country in the morning (Saturday),”  Okello said.

However, there is no evidence that Lumbuye arrived as scheduled and certainly not aboard the plane pictured in the Facebook posts.

Old images

AFP Fact Check conducted a reverse image search and traced the photos, some of which are dated back to 2011.

The main image of a plane bearing Turkish Airlines livery was published by Turkish news agency, Anadolu Ajansi, in 2011, when, according to the corresponding article, the aircraft joined the airline’s fleet.

A screenshot of a Turkish plane appearing on Anadolu Ajansi, a website of a Turkish news agency, taken on August 17, 2021

The picture is used as a file image in media reports here and here.

The second image shows a building with a sign that reads: “Welcome to Entebbe International Airport”. Several passengers can also be seen standing with luggage next to a plane.

A screenshot showing Entebbe airport as captured in the false Facebook post (L) and on the Fortunate Traveller website (R)

The picture, taken at Uganda’s main airport in the city of Entebbe, was first published on a website called Fortunate Traveller in 2017.

The third image shows a Turkish Airlines plane and another aircraft behind it on a runway. A reverse image search reveals that the picture was captured by photographer Umut Ozturk at Istanbul Ataturk airport on August 10, 2011 (see here).

An image screenshot of a Turkish Airlines plane (L) and the 2011 original by Omut Ozturk at Istanbul Ataturk airport

The fourth image shows another Turkish Airlines plane photographed on a runway at night. It can be found on Wikimedia Commons together with the name of the photographer, Anna Zvereva. According to the description, the image shows Turkish Airlines, TC-LSA, Airbus A321-271N; it was taken on September 27, 2018.

We found the same image and caption, published a few months later, on an Instagram page that belongs to Zvereva, whose other posts feature numerous pictures of various aircraft.

A screenshot juxtaposing image Turkish airline plan as displayed in the false Facebook post (L) and the original image captured by photographer Anna Zvereva (R), taken on August 17, 2021


Lumbuye’s arrest led to protests abroad (see here, here and here), with supporters describing his detention in Turkey as illegal.

However, details of his arrest remain unclear, and his exact whereabouts are unknown.

On August 19, 2021, Uganda’s senior minister of foreign affairs, Jeje Odongo, told AFP that the activist was still in Turkey and there were consultations between the Turkish government and the international police network, Interpol, to have him extradited to Uganda.

“Lumbuye is not in Uganda but still in Turkey. We are in consultation with the Turkish government and Interpol on the possibility of having him brought to Uganda to face justice. We are waiting for the outcomes of the engagement we are having with the relevant organs within Uganda and Turkey,” Odongo said.

When contacted by AFP Fact Check, Interpol could not comment on Lumbuye's whereabouts, noting that “it does not comment on specific cases or individuals except in special circumstances and with approval of the member country concerned”.

Turkish officials also declined to comment after AFP contacted the foreign affairs ministry in Ankara.