US Pilots Are Illegally Detained in Brazil, Their Lawyer Says

It’s been now more than a month that a Boeing 737 collided with a smaller plane over the Amazon jungle resulting in Brazil’s worst aviation disaster ever. The crash happened on September 29.

While the families of the 154 dead have gone to hell and now try to pick up the pieces and go on with their lives, the American pilots of the Legacy jet that hit the Boeing have been in limbo since the disaster.

The Brazilian authorities have confiscated their passports and even though they are not in jail they are not allowed to leave the country either while the investigations drag on. There is no end in sight for the inquiry.

The results of the information gathered from the black boxes of both planes are being kept secret. The Brazilian federal police have said that they will not hear the Americans before the Air Force sends them the reports of the black boxes.

Just this Monday, October 30, 10 air controllers from Brasí­lia’s control tower, who were supposed to give their testimony didn’t show up. Instead, all 10 sent a letter to the Federal Police chief Renato Sayão, who is in charge of the case, saying that they are undergoing psychiatric treatment and they will not be able to present their version of the facts before November 13. The letter was signed by a military doctor.

Joe Lepore and Jan Paladin, the two pilots, who are confined in a Rio Hotel – they are being treated as pampered tourists some Brazilians say – are now saying through their lawyers that they can’t take this delay any more and that they want to go back home.

Theo Dias, the Americans’ lawyer told Consultor Jurí­dico magazine: "Even being aware that the decision to seize the passports is illegal, we had decided that we would challenge such decision  only after the pilots’ depositions before the federal police, but in face of the lack of perspective for a conclusion to the investigations we may review such position."

And Dias went on: "The Air Force refused to send evidence to the Federal police without court authorization. On the other hand, the federal judge has already stated that he will wait a decision by the highest appellate court (STJ, Supremo Tribunal de Justiça) which will determine if he will be the one to tackle the case. This impasse might take months."

Dias went out of his way to praise police chief Sayão and to say that he has been acting correctly and that his position towards the inquiry makes a lot of sense, but he added that "the human situation involved in the case clamors for urgency." Basically, he is saying that the pilots want to talk but nobody in Brazil wants or is ready to listen to them.

According to the lawyer, "this is a complex case, that demands a series of investigations that will not be conducted in a short span of time. In many countries, the criminal investigation only starts after the aviation technicians conclude their own investigation."

Dias called attention to the fact that the only people involved in the case that had their freedom of coming and going restrained were the two pilots. Says he, "The Brazilian Constitution calls for equal treatment for nationals and foreigners and what is being investigated in this case is crime of negligence or involuntary crime, which does not admit preventive arrest or any other kind of restriction to the freedom of movement."

He assures that there is no way that the two pilots would disappear and not respond to the Brazilian justice questions even if they went back to the United States. This, because according to the lawyer, a cooperation treaty between Brazil and the US compels the pilots to render account to the Brazilian judiciary. "This is not a matter of wanting to collaborate or not. Such cooperation is a legal imperative."

Article VIII of the treaty (MLAT – Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty) contemplates expressly that a person called on to testify or to show evidence will be compelled, when necessary, to show up and testify or to exhibit documents, records and property.

Thanks to the MLAT, argues Dias, it doesn’t make any sense to continue keeping the two American pilots in Brazil. "Among other reasons because the future of these pilots as professionals depends on the resolution of this case."


  • Show Comments (11)

  • Polo

    Well…appears Folha neswpaper got the jump on the idiot Brazo authorities.They have the news that will soon be released officially: Braz ATC was responsible for the crash by instructing pilots to the altitude where the crash occurred.
    Awwww, shit! No roast American churrasco.
    Now Athina posting here can go back to her squalor and wallow in her socialist self-pity.
    Cheers, you just got Lula for another 4,5,6…40 years(?) and together with Chavez, Lula can do the samba while your economy goes a la merda.

  • Conrad Pillai

    It is a well known fact among aviators, that the altitude you put on your flight plan is a requested flight level. You cannot fly even at your requested altitude until Air Traffic Control (ATC) gives it to you verbally, hence even though the direction required a change of Flight Level, you cannot climb or descend without clearance from ATC. Did ATC give the pilots a change of Flight Level? Did the Pilots request for a change? Was there a responce? By the way it is almost impossible to see any object hurtling towards you at 700knots. Did the pilots see the other aircraft in time to avoid it? Was the TECAS seen by radar? Is there a recording of that radar kept? A lot of Qs and As to be asked before any finger pointing is done. Let the investigation take its course.

  • Athina Onassis

    Take your nose out of my country!!!
    At least Brazil didn’t invade any country using a ridiculous excuse. A revolution has to be done by the people. There was a dictator in Brazil before and brazilian people kicked him out peacefully, without war, without need any other country help. Because it was an intern problem and nobody had to put his nose in that subject. We have many problems in our country such as corruption, violence, etc….. but we don’t need anybody put its nose there, But USA puts his nose in every country….I mean…every country who has oil. I wish they did the same thing in Venezuela, Iran or North Corea.

  • ex pat

    Back on topic

    “I hope these two pilots go to jail and stay there for the rest of their lives for killing 154 people cause they decided not to follow the flight plan in the last minute by themselves!”

    I hope that IF SOMEONE, regardless of WHOM is found guilty of negligence then they suffer the approriate consequences.

  • ex pat

    “3000 soldiers so far have been killed in Iraq”

    ThatÀ‚´s over the course of 3 years. How many Brazilians have died in that same time, and what has your government done to stop this?

    Answers: 150,000 and NOTHING.

  • ex pat

    Frankly my dear Athina youˢ۪re an (insert expletive of your choice here)
    “I hope the brazilian show the world there is justice”

    YouÀ‚´ll have to prove this to yourselves first before the rest of the world takes word for it.

    And by the way congradulations for including the subject of “Iraq” into your third sentence. I think that is a new moronic blog record on this particular subject. Though Costinha IÀ‚´m sure will be back to defend his honor.

  • Athina Onassis

    Terrorists in Guantanamo Base
    ‘As a Brazilian Air Force’s incensed officer said, “If it were a Brazilian plane hitting a North American commercial plane over there and causing more than a hundred deaths, the pilot would already be behind bars in the Guantanamo base and being treated as a terrorist”.

    My friend Abelardo Gomes de Abreu, an old and dear resident of SÀƒ£o SebastiÀƒ£o, went two months ago to represent Brazil in an oar championship in the United States and he had to undress at the airport to be frisked from head to toe.

    In other words, a Brazilian tourist in the USA is always treated as a suspect. while two Americans hyper-suspect of having caused Brazil’s worst air disaster ever have to be treated as tourists in vacation.

    “Anglo-American imperialism”, kids, is that.’ Just in case you haven’t read it yet.

  • Athina Onassis

    I hope these two pilots go to jail and stay there for the rest of their lives for killing 154 people cause they decided not to follow the flight plan in the last minute by themselves!!! It is easy to say that it was the flight controllers fault…this is how americans play!!! What would you say about Iraq war? Did they find any kind of mass destruction weapon? Chemical weapon? No. Instead they are killing civils there and americans parents are losing their soldiers sons…3000 soldiers so far have been killed in Iraq. I hope the brazilian show the world there is justice in its place which is way more clean than many in Europe/USA.

  • Icann Rules

    The ‘authorities’ stated the cause when the accident occurred. The facts of the case are an inconvenient truth – and are becomming more incovenient as eash day passes. If they had anything to indicate blame on the Americans, it would be published and shouted from the rooftops. But they do not. We have jobs and pensions to protect, as well as military careers. Never mind public safety, or preventing this from happening again. The only safety they care about are thier own asses. The more the facts do not support the foregone and stated conclusion, the more they must add time and distance to soften the blow before the facts are released – even accidentally. Time to float theories or conspiracies and further cloud the issue.

  • ex pat

    Just another example of incompetence in Bananalandia
    I would say that this investigation has taken a sharp turn into typical Brazilian incompetence and xenophobia, if it werenÀ¢€™t for the fact that these À¢€˜Latin American Keystone copsÀ¢€Â have been bumbling about befuddled and blatantly narrow-minded from the get-go.

    The way the investigations have gone secretive; and the fact that the ATCs STILL havenÀ¢€™t been formally interviewed one month after the accident; and that when they finally got around to it the ATCs fall ill to a group sickness; this is all part and parcel of what you sign up for in À¢€œBananalandiaÀ¢€Â. The country and its people are dogmatically retarded to the point of being kinda “cute n funny” like a puppy hopelessly trying to catch his own tail. Unless of course as a foreigner you are caught in a leg-hold trap of Brazilian stupidity; then the results are, as with this case, tragic, annoying, frustrating etc.

    The pilots SHOULD now be allowed to leave. I think their willingness to help with the investigation has only been met with pure incompetence and bigotry (que supresa aqui nÀƒ©, meninos?). I said this from the get-go. This is nothing but a witch-hunt. There is no serious investigation being conducted. The authorities could save a lot of time and money, and they might actually gain some international respect (you canÀ¢€™t lose any more than you have already lost), if they brought the Pilots out publicly to Copacabana, tossed them into a barrel of water, to see if they float. IÀ¢€™m sure the majority of Brazilians would consider the methodology SCIENTIFICALLY SOUND.

    Yes, there are some intelligent Brazilians abound (SOME); however none seem to be working on this case.

  • Reality

    correctly said !
    But illegality, injustice and Xenophobia is the daily life of the Brazilian “Justice”.
    Strange that ALL Flights Controllers have the same illness, at the same time, and until the same predeterminded date of November 13.

    If that is not a Brazilian justice and/or government manipulation, what is it ?

    Quite fair for Brazilian Justice to seize the US pilots passports, just as it is fair NOT to seize the passports of the flights controllers….in their view !

    Quite fair from the Brazilian leaders, such as Amorim and others, the medias, and the population to accuse the US pilots openly….before the end of the investigations…despite more and more news and even suspicions that the flights controllers “could” be responsible !!!!!!!

    Quite fair from the President of the Brazilian Association of Pilots to declare : “it is quite normal to SPECULATE that the US pilots are responsible” !!!!!

    In my view, and time will tell, the Brazilian Justice and Government are hiding and manipulating facts already discovered. By doing so…they know why…of course!

    Believing just 1 second that ALL flights controllers suppposed to testify have suddenly all the same illness, at the same time, and all until November 13, DOESNT SMELL GOOD AT ALL ! Worse, the Brazilian Justice accepts this excuse…clearly showing that they are part of this cover up operation !

    Curious too that the the impasse of sending the evidences will, take months ! Guess why ! Doesnt smell good either.

    Curious again that the US pilots wants to talk, and no one wants to listen, while ALL the flights controllers…are refusing to talk…due to epidemy of psychiatric illness ! Doesnt smell good either.

    Fortunately, investigators are and wont be ONLY Brazilians ! Otherwise what is hidden would be kept hidden….on purpose !

    Justice will prevail…. at the end !!!!

    But the Brazilian Justice and Government will not come out clean…because clean they are not !
    And Brazil will prove, once again, to the world, how dirty and stinky they really are.

    From a EU citizen not from a U.S. citizen !

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