HK helicopter pilot faces Harare court

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 02 April, 2008, 12:00am

A Hong Kong helicopter pilot arrested in Zimbabwe last week appeared in a Harare court yesterday to face a minor immigration-related charge, his father said.

Brent Smyth, 32, was detained at Charles Prince Airport, near the southern African nation's capital, Harare, on Tuesday last week as he was about to fly presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to campaign in remote areas.

'Brent has to appear in court this afternoon [Harare time]. He's with South African embassy staff at the moment,' Smyth's father, Derek, said in Hong Kong yesterday. 'He's charged with violation of immigration procedures.'

The pilot was accused of overstaying his visa after the prosecution on Thursday dropped a fraud charge. He was released on Monday until his court appearance yesterday.

Brent Smyth is a permanent resident of Hong Kong who has British and South African citizenship. His father said he was positive about his return from Zimbabwe after talking to his lawyer and MDC officials.

'They assured me that my son was in good hands,' he said, adding that he was in touch with Brent through text messages.

Mr Smyth said his son had expressed optimism that he might be able to leave Zimbabwe for South Africa yesterday. 'He said he was safe and well looked after. He was looking forward to coming back home.'

Brent Smyth studied at Kennedy Road School and Island School before going to South Africa to pursue his dream of becoming a helicopter pilot. He has been working for Aviation Towards Success, an air charter company in South Africa, for three years.

Diplomats from the South African and British embassies had been granted access during his detention.