A Tajik court on Wednesday accepted for consideration an appeal filed by defense lawyers for a Russian and Estonian pilot convicted in Tajikistan.
Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague Alexei Rudenko were sentenced to eight and a half years in jail last Tuesday for smuggling and violation of Tajikistan’s airspace.
The appeal is to be considered within a week.
On Tuesday, the regional prosecutor’s office lodged a formal protest against the sentence it said was too harsh.
Moscow has called the sentence “politically motivated,” and responded by expelling some 200 Tajik migrants.
On Monday, Russia’s public health chief called for Tajik migrant workers to be temporarily barred from Russia “for medical reasons.”
Flight captains Sadovnichy and Rudenko were returning from Afghanistan where they had delivered humanitarian aid in March. They had secured prior permission to fly via Tajikistan but Tajik traffic controllers said there was no permission “on the ground” and told them to return to Kabul. The planes did not have enough fuel and had to land in Tajikistan regardless.
Tajik authorities based their smuggling charges on the fact that the pilots had a disassembled engine onboard, which they said they were using for spare parts.