Families of Brazilians Killed in Air Crash Want American Pilots Back in Brazil

American pilots Leopre and Paladino The Association of Relatives and Friends of Gol's flight 1907, which fell down in the Amazon jungle killing all those aboard, issued a statement condemning a Brazilian judged decision to allow two American pilots, Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino, to be heard in the United States instead of having to travel to Brazil for the deposition. 

The association's document reads: "The ruling issued by Judge Murilo Mendes, responsible for the criminal process related to the accident that took place between Gol's Boeing 737 and ExcelAire's Legacy jet on September 29, 2006, caused concern among the members of The Association of Relatives and Friends of Gol's flight 1907 Victims."

The group was founded after the accident between Gol's Boeing 737 and a Legacy jet, piloted by US pilots Lepore and Paladino, with the purpose of providing support to the relatives of the victims as well as supervising the investigations on the second largest aerial accident in Brazil's history, which carried a death toll of 154 people in the state of Mato Grosso.

Angelita De Marchi, President of the Association of Relatives and Friends of Gol's flight 1907 Victims, said that the decision surprised all the families.

"The decision caught us by surprise. The Brazilian justice system was convinced that the deposition should take place in Brazil and that the pilots did not want to cooperate; they were being judged in default, since even after signing documents saying that they would return to Brazil, officially summoned and the Justice department declaring that they would cover the costs of the process, they were refusing to cooperate," stated Angelita.

The biggest surprise, says the group, came with the decision made by the judge in Sinop, in the midwestern Brazilian state of Mato Grosso,  while there is a pending process in the Supreme Court regarding a petition for a writ of habeas corpus for the pilots; they are requesting that the depositions take place in the USA.

"We were waiting for the decision from the Supreme Court, when we received the news that the judge was now authorizing the deposition in the USA. We find all of this embarrassing for us and for our country, which is forced to concede in that type of situation. If these were Brazilians being judged in the USA, the pilots would not have even been released to return to Brazil while the duration of the process," said Mr. De Marchi.

Rosane Guhtjar, a victim's widow, was very upset with the judge's take. "This decision is issued at a time when the pilots claim to the American justice system that they were coerced to sign the documents, that they were forced to sign. If we already had little hope for their return to Brazil, now it is for sure that we won't know what happened in the accident; if they refuse to cooperate here, who knows having to declare, in writing, in their country," says Guhtjar.

The relatives' hope is that the Federal Prosecutor's Office, responsible for the case, appeals judge's Murilo Mendes decision and that the pilots are required to come back to Brazil to take a deposition or that they continue to be judged in default.

"This is a public process in Brazil. The Federal Prosecutors Office represents us, and we hope that this position is questioned. What happened in this accident is a crime, the death of 154 people due to irresponsible behavior. We expect that justice be done," requests the widow Rosane Guhtjar.

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