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Pilots union calls for flight boycott

Protest in support of two French pilots detained in Dominican Republic on drug-trafficking charges for 11 months

THE MAIN French commercial pilots’ union has called on its members not to fly to the Dominican Republic, in protest at the 11-month detention of two colleagues there on drug-trafficking charges.

The National Union of Airline Pilots (SNPL France ALPA) boycott calls for “all pilots on French contracts to refuse to provide flights to the Dominican Republic”.

The union's president, Yves Deshayes, said some Air France pilots refused to fly to the country’s airport in Santo Domingo on Tuesday, but they were replaced by others who did.

The union launched the action in support of two pilots, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos, who were arrested just before taking off from Punta Cana airport on March 20, 2013.

They were held after anti-narcotics officials in Dominican Republic discovered 700kg of cocaine on board the plane and have been kept in detention ever since, “without having had the opportunity to see a judge to explain the facts,” the union said.

The case has become known as “Air Cocaine”.

Mr Deshayes said the union action, “is to protect pilots who believe it is dangerous for them to go there”.

It is also, “to put pressure on the country to which tourism is an important resource”, he added.

He insisted the two pilots were “were just doing their jobs” and they “have the right to be tried”.

The aircraft, a Falcon 50 private jet belonging to Alain Afflelou, the owner of a chain of opticians and until recently president of Top 14 rugby side Bayonne, was under charter at the time to SN-THS, a company based in Bron, in the Rhône-Alpes.

The union said a court hearing to begin proceedings against them and nearly 40 other drug trafficking suspects - including two more French nationals - has been delayed six times.

The union added that the country “is unable to provide a level of safety consistent with international standards" and warned anyone planning a holiday to the Dominican Republic to beware of drugs being hidden in their luggage “without their knowledge”.

Photo:Joe Jones

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