DUSHANBE, December 29 (Itar-Tass) — Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian pilot Alexei Rudenko will demand from the Tajik court to clear them of a criminal record as well as will insist on the verdict of “not guilty” on all counts, their lawyer Gulyam Babayev told Tass by telephone on Thursday.
The pilots of Rolkan carrier lodged this appeal to the presidium Khatlon district court, which on November 22 sentenced them to 2.5 years in prison. The pilots, however, were set free in the courtroom in accordance with president’s amnesty.
Babayev, who defended them during the court trial, said “on Wednesday, Rolkan’s representative Valery Pfeifer called me from Moscow and asked to continue defending the interests of the pilots”. He said he would do that after receiving general authority from the pilots. He said that he had understood that his defendants were not guilty already at the initial stage of investigation.
The appeals board of the Khatlon district court in Tajikistan on November 22 overturned the guilty verdict for two pilots of the Rolkan company, Russian citizen Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko, sentenced to 8.5 years for violating Tajik air space. The pilots were set free in the courtroom.
Presiding judge Alisho Kurbonov underlined that the pilots had been found guilty of "contraband," and "illegal border crossing," taking into account the defence’s complaint and the prosecutor's protest, which envisions a cumulative jail term of 2.5 years.
Taking into consideration the amnesty initiated by the president and the time served in prison, they were released, Kurbonov said.
The commanders of An-72 crews flew food supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan. The planes belonged to the Rolkan company registered in an offshore zone on the Virgin Islands.
After the expiration of the contract, they flew to the Tajik town of Kurgan-Tyube, having obtained preliminary permission for border crossing from the republic's aviation authorities.
However, when both planes were still in flight, the pilots received a message saying that permission to land had been denied.
They had no technical opportunities to return to the Kabul airport, and the pilots, in order not to risk the lives of the crews', requested emergency landing.
After the landing, Tajik security services detained them, and on May 12, they were charged with violation of rules of international flights, contraband and illegal border crossing in collusion with a group of persons.
On November 8, the Kurgan-Tyube court sentenced them to 10.5 years in a maximum security penitentiary, but the presidential amnesty commuted the jail term to 8.5 years.
The pilots called the verdict "absurd," while their lawyer Boboyev characterized the court's conclusions as based on "versions and suppositions." The trial caused a public stir, and evoked a negative reaction from the Russian society and leadership.