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Duma to pass statement against conviction of pilots in Tajikistan

November 17, 2011, 9:49 UTC+3

In the statement the MPs are going to recognise the verdict to pilots, who were sentenced to 8.5 years in prison, “unduly harsh and politicized”

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MOSCOW, November 17 (Itar-Tass) — The State Duma lower house of Russia’s parliament on Thursday intends to consider a draft statement “in connection with the conviction in Tajikistan of Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy and our compatriot citizen of the Estonia Republic Alexei Rudenko.” The final decision on putting this issue on the agenda will be made by the lower house Council at 10:00 MSK, but the relevant committee for the CIS affairs has already recommended to adopt the draft statement at Thursday’s plenary meeting.

In the statement the MPs are going to recognise the verdict to pilots, who were sentenced to 8.5 years in prison, “unduly harsh and politicized.” “This decision was contrary to the spirit of strategic partnership between Russia and Tajikistan, which suffered damage for the sake of not well thought-out opportunistic reasons,” the document says.

The house intends to express the hope “that Tajikistan will heed the voice of reason and react quickly to the negative attitude of the Russian society to the harsh sentence handed down to pilots Vladimir Sadovnichy and Alexei Rudenko.” In Russia this verdict was met with surprise and disappointment, it has caused many questions and a very negative reaction, the lawmakers recall.

The pilots of the Rolkan airline Vladimir Sadovnichy and Alexei Rudenko were sentenced by the court of Kurgan-Tube to 8.5 years in a tight regime penal colony on charges of illegal border crossing and smuggling. The pilots of two aircraft had been arrested in Tajikistan in March. They have pleaded not guilty.

Earlier, Chairman of the State Duma’s foreign policy committee Konstantin Kosachev asked his counterparts in the parliament of Tajikistan to take under parliamentary supervision the case of the two pilots working for a Russian airline.

Kosachev said he had sent a letter to Olim Salimzoda, the chairman of international affairs committee at Tajikistan’s Majlis, in which he had voiced concern over the sentence to the pilots -- the Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy and the Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko.

He asked Salimzoda to take the pilots’ case under parliamentary control and expressed the hope that “an allied relationship, partnership and mutual respect will help our two countries eliminate the aftermath of this incident and attain an early return home of Vladimir Sadovnichy and his colleague.”

The pilots working for the airline Rolkan were arrested March 12, 2011, after a forced landing in the airport of the city of Kurgan Tube.

A Tajikistani court sentenced them to 10.5 years in a high security prison but after an amnesty signed by President Emomali Rakhmon the term was slashed by two years.

Sadovnichy and Rudenko were found guilty of all the three offenses the Tajikistani law enforcement agencies had charged them with initially – an encroachment on the regulations for international flights, an unauthorized border crossing, and contraband.

The Tajikistani government has also confiscated the two Antonov-72 (NATO reporting name Coaler) transport aircraft Sadovnichy and Rudenko had been flying.

On Monday, vice chancellor of the Estonian Foreign Ministry Lauri Bambus told Itar-Tass that Estonia closely follows the situation regarding the pilots of a Russian air company – Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko and Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy - convicted in Tajikistan.

“The Estonian side closely follows the situation regarding the convicted pilots and hopes that the court will promptly discuss the petition over that case,” he said. In Tallinn’s opinion, the reasons for convicting Rudenko and Sadovnichy “are not quite clear, so their remaining in detention looks unjustified,” the vice chancellor said. Bambus said the Estonian Foreign Ministry had taken a number of steps in a quest for acceptable solution of “the pilots’ case” and planned further steps that, if needed, be taken after the petition was discussed by the court. He confirmed that, whatever turn the event can take, Estonia would do its utmost to bring its citizen home. For this purpose Tallinn and Dushanbe will have to sign an appropriate arrangement on the possibility of Estonian and Tajikistani citizens convicted by the court of one of the sides to serve the punishment in the home country. A meeting of the Estonian and Tajikistani Foreign ministers is also scheduled for early December.

Meanwhile, the Tajik Court of Appeals has allowed the convicted pilots’ appeal against their sentence. The two pilots’ lawyer, Gulam Boboyev, told reporters that the defendants had appealed against the unjust and unlawful guilty verdict. The Prosecutors’ Office has also appealed against the sentence which it deems to be biased.


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