LONDON - Two men were cleared Thursday of endangering a Pakistan International Airways plane after a British court heard that they were "idiots, not terrorists".

Mohammed Safdar, 42, and his friend Tayyab Subhani, 30, were arrested in May after their flight from Lahore to Manchester in northwest England had to make an emergency diversion to London's Stansted Airport. Britain scrambled Typhoon fighter jets to intercept the flight.

It had been claimed that Safdar, supported by Subhani, made threats to blow up the plane and kill its crew and passengers after an argument broke out with air stewards 30,000 feet above ground.

But the judge instructed the jury to find the pair not guilty after concluding that the case against them was "tenuous and peppered with inconsistencies".

"Under the circumstances no jury can properly convict these men," judge Charles Gratwicke told Chelmsford Crown Court in Essex, just outside London.

A series of witnesses had told the court that although the men acted like "idiots", they had not made serious threats to blow up the plane.

Captain Nadeem Sufi originally alerted authorities to the scare, but told the court that once the severity of the diversion operation became clear he had tried to reverse the decision by telling air traffic control that the men were "laughing and joking".

Safdar and Subhani, who are from Lancashire in northwest England, had been returning from Safdar's mother's funeral in Pakistan.

Prosecutors had stressed that the pair were not Islamic extremists or "terrorists," but that the crew was forced to take the threats seriously.

Once on the ground, the plane was surrounded by armed police under a full-scale bomb alert.