DUSHANBE, November 13 (Itar-Tass) —— The Kurgan-Tyube City Court staff has registered the appeal of the Russian airline pilots’ defense. The appeal will be handed over to the Khatlon District Court on Monday, lawyer Gulyam Boboyev told Itar-Tass on Sunday.
“The eight-page document presents our detailed opinion about the sentence, which is based on conjectures and presumptions rather than on facts,” the lawyer said. “I am confident that the truth will triumph and my clients will be released.”
On November 8 the Kurgan-Tyube City Court sentenced Vladimir Sadovnichy of Russia and Alexei Rudenko of Estonia to 8.5 years in a maximum-security penitentiary for the breach of Tajikistan’s air space and contraband. The pilots were apprehended in March 2011. They pleaded not guilty.
The two pilots of a Russian airline registered on the Virgin Islands were seized by Tajik security service officers in March 2011 as soon as their Antonov An-72 jets touched down in the Kurgan-Tyube airport. The bill of indictment said that the pilots breached the rules of international flights and illegally crossed the border of Tajikistan. The prosecutor demanded 13 years in custody for each. The trial started on October 13.
The lawyer said that the pilots had a preliminary permit to fly across the Tajik border but the Tajik authorities suddenly denied them the entry when the planes were already in the air.
Earlier both pilots worked in Afghanistan. Their Afghan contract ended on March 10, 2011.
The Kurgan-Tyube trial triggered a broad public response. Representatives of the Russian and Estonian embassies and Russian journalists attended the trial.
Tajik President Emomali Rahmon took the case under personal control, and diplomatic sources said, “Dushanbe sent a clear message to Moscow about its readiness to resolve the problem constructively, on the basis of the bilateral partnership and alliance, and Moscow acknowledged the message.”
The Russian ambassador to Tajikistan was summoned to Moscow for brief consultations on Friday. He will be back on Monday, a representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass.
“After his meeting with the Tajik president, Russian Ambassador to Tajikistan Yuri Popov was summoned to Moscow for brief consultations. He will stay here for a few days and will return to his duties on Monday,” he said.
Popov met with Rahmon on Thursday to discuss “the conviction of Russian airline pilots, including Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy,” a diplomat told Itar-Tass in Dushanbe.