Tajik court to review Russian pilot’s jail sentence

A court in Tajikistan has agreed to review the jail sentence handed to a Russian pilot on for smuggling and illegal crossing of the border.

The sentence was challenged by local prosecutors, who say 8.5 years is too harsh asking for a milder sentence.

“The court should take into account the personalities of the convicted men, as well as the fact that they are citizens of countries that are Tajikistan’s strategic partners,” the prosecutors stated.

Meanwhile, Tajik lawmakers have unanimously approved the amendments to the republic’s Air Code toughening penalties for air space violations.

The amendments envision criminal responsibility for violation of Tajikistan’s air space by all persons without exception, said director of Tajikistan’s center for law-making, Makhmad Rakhimov.

On November 8, Russian pilot Vladimir Sadovnichy and his Estonian colleague Aleksey Rudenko were sentenced to 8.5 years in jail, with their planes confiscated.

The defense lawyers say that the pilots returning from Afghanistan to Russia via Tajikistan were forced to land due to fuel shortage – even though they had been denied permission. The pilots insist they had been given verbal permission to land.

The Rolkan airline has announced its intention to sue Tajik authorities for seizing its planes and sentencing its pilots to lengthy terms in prison, Rolkan General Director Sergei Poluyanov told Interfax.

The pilots’ sentence was followed by a diplomatic row between Russia and Tajikistan as Moscow was outraged at the sentence considering it to be “politically motivated”. It warned the neighbor of “symmetrical or asymmetrical” response depending on the capital Dushanbe’s reaction.

Shortly after that, Russia’s migration service began deporting illegal Tajik immigrants. President Dmitry Medvedev said it was only a “coincidence” rather than a one-off campaign and stressed that such deportations in future will be carried out regularly.

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