Armenia seeks to release its arrested pilots

The Armenian foreign ministry is taking further efforts to set free Armenian pilots who have been arrested for their participation in a plot against the government of Equatorial Guinea, spokesman for the ministry Gamlet Gasparyan told reporters on Wednesday.

According to Mr. Gasparyan, in line with the contract signed with the Armenian-based Dvin Kontsern airlines, six Armenian pilots had been staying in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, since January 2004 and using an AN-12 aircraft registered in Armenia. Late on March 7 the Armenian pilots were arrested.

The authorities of Equatorial Guinea are accusing them of organising a coup in this country, of being mercenaries and of espionage. Allegedly, the pilots gathered political, economic and military information.

"The charges forwarded against the pilots are very contradictory and have nothing to do with their work. The authorities of Equatorial Guinea present them as militant mercenaries while they are professional and experienced pilots. The Guinean authorities claim that the Armenian citizens had infiltrated their country by ship. The espionage charges are not logical either because the pilots knew nothing about the country's customs, its language and the territory, and therefore could not have been involved in espionage in Malabo," said Mr. Gasparyan.

According to the spokesman for the Armenian foreign ministry, Armenia's diplomatic representations in Moscow and New York are negotiating the release of the Armenian pilots with the Guinean authorities.

Besides, the Armenian foreign ministry has appealed to the Red Cross and the Amnesty International organisations for help.

"The Armenian foreign ministry is ready to send its diplomats to Equatorial Guinea to address these problems, if need be," said Mr. Gasparyan.

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