Lithuania asks Belgium for more explanation about so-called detention of KlasJet crew

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Klasjet Boeing 737-500 registered LY-JMS, used for the transportation of the Belgian Red Devils

We reported earlier that a KlasJet crew had been checked at Charleroi airport for three hours, without being able to communicate with the outside after their phones were seized. Charleroi’s labour auditor Charles-Eric Clesse indeed suspected the airline, responsible for transporting the Belgian Red Devils to and from the cities hosting their matches during the recent European Football Championship, of “false independence and illegal subcontracting“.

The auditor found out that the staff are working for a Dubai company. These findings were denounced and transmitted to the Lithuanian judicial and social authorities, who are responsible for taking any further action.

Apparently, the Lithuanian authorities are not satisfied with the information received from the auditor and are standing by their airline, according to a press release issued today by KlasJet (see hereunder). The airline still considers that the rights of its crew have been violated and that there was no interpreter present, although the labour auditor says the opposite. The airline considers which further legal steps it could take, but admits that it will cooperate with both Belgian and Lithuanian authorities (which have engaged in intergovernmental communication) to find a final solution to the issue.

The KlasJet press release:

Lithuania asks Belgium for more explanation about detention of airline crew

For the movements of the Red Devils during the recent UEFA Euro2020 campaign, the Royal Belgian Football Association called on the European business airline KlasJet through the Antwerp broker The Aviation Factory. It became embroiled in a fierce discussion with the Belgian authorities after a month of intimidation and harassment as well as coordinated attacks on the company in certain Belgian media.

The situation escalated on 30 June 2021, when a KlasJet crew was detained at Brussels South Charleroi airport. To date, Belgian officials have still not indicated the legal framework within which the investigation was conducted. “These actions negatively impacted the day-to-day operations of our company. Because the lawful free movement of persons, goods and services within the EU must be safeguarded, KlasJet considers such actions to be unauthorised. We are currently investigating what legal steps we can take to ensure that such actions do not occur in the future. In addition, we reserve the right to defend the good name and reputation of KlasJet,” said Rita Domkute, CEO of KlasJet.

During their detention, the KlasJet crew was not allowed to contact anyone. Phones were confiscated and all crew members were questioned. Their basic rights were violated because they were not allowed to contact anyone. Moreover, they could not ask for legal assistance and they had to make statements in a language other than their own mother tongue. This exhausting and intimidating spectacle lasted more than three hours. After that, the authorities refused to give any ground or explanation for the arrests.

On 1 July, Belgian officials confirmed in a number of Belgian newspapers that there was no legal basis or jurisdiction to launch such investigations. Still, they continued to accuse Klasjet of undisclosed “violations.”

Intergovernmental communication

Lithuania has expressed its concern about this situation in the European Union. After KlasJet submitted a request for assistance, the Lithuanian Embassy in Brussels informed KlasJet that it had sent a note to the Belgian Federal Government and that it has also received a reply in the meantime. “Intergovernmental communication” is underway to clarify the reasons and circumstances of the above situation and to ensure that the rights of the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania have not been violated.

In addition to cooperating with the Lithuanian and Belgian authorities, KlasJet is considering all possible legal measures to identify officials who abuse their power and compel them to account for their actions. The company believes that the free movement of goods and services within the EU is an important economic privilege that should be preserved for any company trading under EU law. In defence of this fundamental right, KlasJet has obtained legal advice about the entire situation.

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