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Tajik court denies full acquittal to Rolkan pilots

March 28, 2012, 14:44 UTC+3

Tajikistan confiscated both airliners "in favor of the state"

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DUSHANBE, March 258 (Itar-Tass) — The court of Tajikistan's Khatlon region turned down the appeal by the lawyer of Rolkan company pilots Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian citizen Alexei Rudenko who had insisted on full acquittal, the lawyer of former convicts Gulom Babayev told Itar-Tass on Wednesday.

Member of the regional court's panel Shamsiddin Temurov explained his decision by "a lack of grounds to meet the petition," and acknowledged the legitimacy of the earlier verdicts announced by the town court of Kurgan-Tyube and the regional Khatlon court.

The commanders of An-72 crews, Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague, 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 Kabul’s airport, and the pilots, in order not to risk the lives of the crews, requested emergency landing.

After the landing, Tajik secret services detained them, and on May 12, they were charged with violation of rules of international flights, contraband and illegal border crossing.

On November 8, the Kurgan-Tyube court sentenced them to 10.5 years in a maximum security penitentiary, but on November 22, a higher court commuted the sentences to 8.5 years. Presidential amnesty applied to the case, and taking into account the time served in prison, the pilots were set free in the courtroom.

However, Vladimir Sadovnichy said at the Russian Embassy in Dushanbe after his release that he would seek, together with this Estonian colleague, full clearance of their criminal records, no matter how much time or efforts it took.

Tajikistan confiscated both airliners "in favor of the state."

Lawyer Gulom Boboyev underlined that he and his clients would decide on further actions after scrutinizing the court's Wednesday ruling.

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