Latin America & Caribbean

Dominican Republic demands French pilots' extradition

A banner showing support for Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos is displayed in the French town of Autrans Image copyright AFP
Image caption The pilots' supporters in France had campaigned for their release

The Dominican Republic says it will seek the extradition of two French pilots who fled the country after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Arrested in 2013, the pilots were sentenced to 20 years in prison after police found 26 suitcases on their plane stuffed with 680kg (1,500lb) of cocaine.

They fled the country after being released from prison while on appeal.

Speaking in Paris, their lawyer denied they were fleeing justice.

But Dominican Attorney General Francisco Dominguez Brito said his office was in contact with the French authorities "to determine how they escaped the country, and their accomplices".

He also said that state prosecutors had opposed the decision to allow the pilots to be released under judicial supervision while their appeal was processed.

"It doesn't make the slightest sense that a foreigner accused of drug trafficking should be granted a relaxed form of restrictions," he said.

"We are proceeding with a request for an international arrest warrant for the pilots involved."

'Seeking justice'

The French government has stressed that it had nothing to do with their escape.

"The decision of Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos to return to France was a decision individual to them, " said a statement issued by the French embassy in Santo Domingo.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Pascal Fauret, (2nd left), accompanied by his wife and other supporters, addresses journalists in Paris

In a media conference in Paris on Tuesday, Mr Fauret insisted that the pilots were innocent.

He said the Dominican authorities had "condemned us to 20 years in prison for the sole reason that we were French".

The pilots' lawyers say they have contacted the French magistrate in charge of their case and are keen to clear their name.

"They are in France not to flee justice but to seek justice," their lawyer Jean Reinhart told the AFP news agency.

According to French media reports, the pilots were helped by former military colleagues to reach a boat off the Dominican coast, which they sailed to the French Antilles before flying on to Paris.

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