The Polish government has started the legal process to arrest Russian air traffic controllers who were on duty the night Polish President Lech Kaczynski was killed in an aircraft crash near Smolensk, Russia.
Polish media reported Polish prosecutors in 2017 accused the air traffic controllers of “deliberately provoking” the crash where 96 Polish officials including Kaczynski died at Russia’s Smolensk airport, wrote The Moscow Times.
Prosecutor’s office spokeswoman Ewa Bialik told reporters that Poland had applied for a “temporary detainment order” of the three Russian flight controllers, according to the broadcaster Poland In, which cited the Polish Press Agency.
“This is the first step to issuing an international arrest warrant,” the outlet said.
Polish prosecutors believe that the Russian flight controllers “had anticipated that a catastrophe might occur” when they gave conditional clearance for landing to the pilots.
The Polish prosecution has not given up on finding a guilty party outside of Poland. Three years ago, Polish investigators came to the conclusion that air traffic controllers who “deliberately provoked the catastrophe” are to blame for the disaster instead of the Polish pilots who chose to land in Smolensk despite the numerous warnings from Russian traffic control, reported Russian state news agency TASS.
Press Secretary for the Polish General Prosecutor’s Office Eva Bialik disclosed that if the court demands the temporary arrest of the air traffic control workers, the investigators can take measures for their detention.
But does Poland have the ability to launch criminal proceedings against Russian citizens? Maria Spiridonova from the Russian Association of Lawyers explained that in accordance with Article 11 Part 1 of the Russian Criminal Code, any person that committed a crime on Russian territory faces criminal proceedings under the Russian law. “Therefore, even if we assume that the Russian air traffic controllers had committed a crime, the case proceedings and the criminal prosecution must take place in strict accordance with the norms of Russian criminal law,” Spiridonova told the paper. “Special attention should be paid to Article 61 of the Russian Constitution, which says that a citizen of the Russian Federation cannot be expelled from the country or handed over to another state.”
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