FM Flies to Equatorial Guinea to Seek Release of Armenian Pilots


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 19, ARMENPRESS: Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan
Oskanian few last Saturday to Equatorial Guinea in an effort to
persuade the government of the West African country that six Armenian
pilots jailed by its court for lengthy prison term on charges of
involvement in a coup to topple its president are innocent.

A spokesman for the ministry, Hamlet Gasparian, said the minister
will have a series of meetings with Equatorial Guinea officials to
press for the pilots’ release.

The Armenian pilots were flying an Armenian transport plane that
was hired by a German airfreight company a year ago to ship cargo to
Equatorial Guinea. They were arrested in last March and sentenced to
between 14 and 24 years’ imprisonment on November 26 on charges of
involvement in a plot to topple Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president
of the that country.

The pilots were convicted along with five South Africans accused of
being an advance party of foreign mercenaries arrested in Zimbabwe
almost a year ago.

All Armenian pilots pleaded not guilty to the accusations
throughout their trial which was described by Amnesty International, a
leading global human rights group, as “grossly unfair.”

Armenian President Robert Kocharian wrote to Obiang last year,
suggesting that the two countries sign an extradition agreement that
allow the repatriation of the Armenians.

Also Armenian ambassador to Egypt, Sergey Manaserian and a senior
diplomat from Armenian foreign ministry traveled twice to Malabo, the
capital of Equatorial Guinea to learn the conditions in which
Armenians are being keptand attend the trial.