Argentina releases 12 crew members of detained Venezuelan plane
The Court of Appeals in La Plata in Argentina announces the release of 11 Venezuelans and one Iranian crew member from the Venezuelan plane seized in Buenos Aires.
The 11 Venezuelan crew members of the detained plane in Buenos Aires, in addition to one of the five Iranians, Mehdi Moussalli, can leave the Argentina, the Argentine Court of Appeals in La Plata announced Tuesday.
"We are very pleased with the decision, and we will appeal the lifting of the ban on other crew members," the defense attorney for the cabin crew, Mariana Barbeta, told Telesur.
The majority of the 19-man strong plane crew, 12 members, can now return to their countries. Those released consist of 11 Venezuelan crew members and one Iranian.
The Venezuelan-flagged Boeing 747, which belongs to Venezuelan airline Emtrasur, has been detained by the Argentine authorities since June 8. The detention took place during a refueling stop Boeing was taking in the country.
The plane arrived in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, on June 6 and was scheduled to head to Uruguay two days later, but the latter refused to grant the Venezuelan plane access to airspace, forcing the airlines to return to the Argentine airport.
Exclusive: FBI behind seizure of Venezuelan plane in Argentina
More than twelve weeks after Boeing 747-300M cargo was seized in Argentina on US orders, Al Mayadeen Espanol interviewed two of its detained crew members, in addition to the director of the Empresa de Transporte Aéreocargo del Sur, S.A. (EMTRASUR), a Venezuelan cargo airline and subsidiary of Consorcio Venezolano de Industrias Aeronáuticas y Servicios Aéreos, S.A (CONVIASA), a Venezuelan state-owned company.
The incident got so little media attention despite the fact that Argentinian authorities detained 19 crew members at a Buenos Aires airport since it arrived on June 8, simply carrying a shipment of auto parts.
In an exclusive interview for Al Mayadeen Espanol, Mario Araga, one of the detained crew members, appeared to express his shock after discovering that the FBI is accountable for his detention, wondering if Argentina lacks its proper governmental investigative body.
Araga went on to say, “I know it exists and is operational but is there not a device that responds to the questions and inquiries that we have?"
“We are supposed to present about 132 Testimonial and Documentary evidence, “he added.
He described what is happening as a display of mad tactics to desperately seeking a thread of accusation against any one of the detainees even if they don’t find any.
"Nothing, absolutely nothing”, he tersely stated, reassuring that there is no evidence against the plane's crew members.
He recalled that at one point they were informed that the United States was on the front lines and behind what was going on with them.
“Today there is an order issued by the court of a federal judge in Florida ordering the confiscation, that is, the seizure, of our plane... However, the Public Prosecutor approved the Florida court's decision... As a result, the plane is now in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation of the United States of America," he concluded.
Mohammad Khosravi Aragh, an Iranian mechanical engineer and crew member, confidently assured that "all legal stages will be carried out in the best way possible so that we and our Venezuelan colleagues can return to our country."
“We are doing well. We are ok. Thank you very much for your interest in our cause,” he cheerfully concluded.
"When we entered Argentine airspace, the cargo was unloaded and we wanted to leave, everything was still normal. Later, they said they would not refuel this plane. Since that day, there have been a series of problems they claim, and we have been here for About 90 days, and we don't know what the problem is."
A Boeing 747-300M cargo was detained in Argentina in June. At the time, the Argentinian Security Minister said that a Boeing 747 “owned by Mahan Airlines” and leased to Venezuela was detained and its five Iranian crew members had their passports confiscated.
The airplane was transporting automobile parts, and no contraband or suspicious cargo was found during the search.
Two months later, Washington asked Argentina to seize the Venezuelan cargo plane that has been parked since June on its soil and is linked to the US sanctions against Iran.
The case file stated that the plane was under the control of Venezuela's Emtrasur, which allowed "the re-export of the aircraft between Caracas, Venezuela, Tehran, Iran, and Moscow, Russia, without the permission of the US government."
On that note, Iran's Mahan Airlines refuted news being reported on the seizing of one of its planes in Argentina, stressing that the airplane in question is owned by Venezuela.
IRNA news agency reported, quoting Mahan's public relations bureau that the aircraft that was seized in Venezuela had nothing to do with Mahan Airlines.
It is worth noting that the Boeing 747 was sold to Emtrasur, a subsidiary of the Venezuelan company Conviasa, by an Iranian company, Mahan Air, in October 2021. The two countries have signed a 20-year cooperation plan as a way to overcome the sanctions imposed against them by the US.
Both the previous Iranian owner of the Boeing 747 as well as the Venezuelan owner of the plane have been sanctioned by the US for different reasons. The US Department of Justice used this pretext to justify its request from Argentina to confiscate the plane.
On his account, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pushed for the return of the Boeing 747-300M transport aircraft detained in Argentina.
"Now they intend to steal our plane, as they stole our gold in London, as they stole from us [oil refinery in the United States] Citgo, steal a plane belonging to Venezuela ... We declare our protest that the Venezuelan plane be returned to us," Maduro said on the VTV channel.