Thai prosecutors on Thursday dropped charges against the Kazakh-Belarusian crew of an arms-laden plane intercepted in Bangkok in December 2009.
The Attorney General`s Office said that the decision was made after the governments of Belarus and Kazakhstan had contacted the Thai foreign ministry and requested the crew`s release to face prosecution at home, the Associated Press reported.
"To charge them in Thailand could effect the good relationship between the countries,"Thanaphit Mollaphruek, a spokesman for the Attorney General`s Office, was quoted as saying. "We have decided to drop all the charges and deport them to their home countries.""To charge them in this case would not be a benefit to Thailand," he added.
The Russian-built, Georgian-registered Ilyushin IL-76 aircraft was reportedly found to be carrying 35 tons of weapons.
Tehran is suspected to have been the final destination of the shipment, but Iran has denied this. The crew, which consist of four citizens of Kazakhstan and 54-year-old Belarusian flight engineer Mikhail Petukhow, have been held in Bangkok’s Klong Prem Central Prison since mid-December. The five have said through their lawyer that they were not aware that the cargo contained explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and components for surface-to-air missiles as Thai authorities reported.