French court bails 'Air Cocaine' pilots


Aix-en-Provence (France) (AFP)

A French appeals court on Thursday bailed two pilots pending a probe into allegations they tried to fly a cocaine-laden jet out of the Dominican Republic.

In what has become known as the "Air Cocaine" case, Pascal Fauret and Bruno Odos were sentenced to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking in the Caribbean state, but managed to escape and flee back to France.

They were arrested in March 2013 along with two other men as they were about to take off from the Dominican resort of Punta Cana.

Authorities said they were preparing to leave on a privately-hired Dassault Falcon 50 jet with 26 suitcases containing 680 kilogrammes (1,500 pounds) of cocaine.

They have been in custody in France since November 2015 where they are under official investigation.

The appeals court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence on Thursday, however, released the pair on condition that they do not travel, work in the aviation sector or contact other suspects in the case, a judicial source told AFP.

They were also required to surrender their passports and attend their local police station once a week.

"We asked the public prosecutor to tell us what evidence they had and they could not tell us. So it is normal that they be freed, they are innocent," said one of their lawyers, Dupond-Moretti.

In October 2015 Fauret and Odos managed to flee the Dominican Republic, travelling by boat to the Franco-Dutch island of Saint Martin before flying to Martinique and then on to France.

They had appealed their conviction and the Dominican authorities did not hold them in detention pending the appeal.

The two men said they wanted to be tried in a "functional justice system" and clear their names.

They were arrested a month after arriving in France.

The two other men convicted with them, Nicolas Pisapia and Alain Castany, remain in the Dominican Republic.

Another Frenchman, aviation security expert Christophe Naudin, is awaiting trial in the Dominican Republic for allegedly helping Fauret and Odos to escape.

He was arrested in Cairo in February and extradited back to the Dominican Republic.