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Thu, Nov 16, 2006

Brazilian Judge Denies Latest Request To Release Pilots

Suspect Investigation Continues To Drag On

Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino are still in seclusion in a Rio de Janeiro Marriott hotel, under threat of criminal prosecution. And a Brazilian judge Monday ruled that they can remain held there indefinitely.

Authorities in Brazil confiscated the men's passports following a September 29 midair collision involving the Embraer Legacy 600 the two pilots were flying. The collision is thought to have caused a Gol Airlines 737 to crash in the Amazon, killing 154 passengers and crew.

The Brazilian government says it will prosecute should an investigation show the pair caused the accident. That investigation is bogged down amid political wrangling between Brazilian police and its defense ministry.

Brazilian police suggest the defense ministry -- responsible for the nation’s air traffic control duties -- is withholding evidence that might show air traffic controllers were responsible for the accident.

Meanwhile, a judge denied a request by lawyers for Lepore and Paladino to have their passports returned to them.

"The decision is wrong," one of the lawyers, Theo Dias, wrote in an e-mail obtained by the Associated Press. "Of all those involved in the accident they are the only ones being denied the right to come and go."

Lepore’s and Paladino’s employer, ExcelAire, says it disagrees with the court... but respects the decision.

"While we respect the court and its decision, we obviously disagree with the ruling, and we intend to pursue additional legal avenues to obtain the release to which we believe we are entitled," ExcelAire attorney Robert Torricella said.

FMI: www.brasilemb.org

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