Russian pilots' smuggling case referred to Tajikistan regional court
DUSHANBE, November 21 - RAPSI. The criminal case of Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and Estonian pilot Alexei Rudenko was referred to Tajikistan regional court on Monday, the pilots' defense attorney told RIA Novosti by telephone.
A Kurgan-Tyube court sentenced on November 8 Sadovnichy and Rudenko to 8.5 years in prison for illegally crossing the border, smuggling and violating international air transportation rules. The pilots' sentence was met with dismay in Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the sentence "excessively harsh and politically motivated". The sentence has been appealed. Khatlon Region Court, a higher court, remanded the case to the city court "for final processing' on November 17.
Rolkan Investmens' An-72 aircrafts piloted by Sadovnichy and Rudenko flew in March from Kabul to the Kurganteppa airport after delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
The pilots were permitted to cross the Tajik border.
Later, the dispatcher said they were not permitted to land, and ordered the aircrafts to return to Kabul. As the planes did not have enough fuel to fly back, the pilots landed in Kurganteppa airport where they were eventually detained.
The prosecution's main argument was that the pilots allegedly smuggled a half-disassembled aircraft engine that the pilots used for spare parts.