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Lawyer Says KAL Pilot Knew He Was Over Soviet Union

August 16, 1986

TOKYO (AP) _ An American lawyer said Friday that the pilot and co-pilot of the Korean jetliner shot down over the Soviet Union three years ago had been paid to leave their regular course and fly over Soviet terrority.

Attorney Melvin Belli, who represents families of passengers who died aboard the Korean Air Lines Boeing 747, spoke to reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan.

He said the wives of the pilot and co-pilot told him ″their husbands knew that they were flying over Russian territory,″ and that they were getting paid to do so.

″They had brought home cash, cash under the table to them,″ Belli said the women told him.

Belli did not specify who paid the aviators, but said: ″We’ve got enough (proof) to show now that the pilot knew he was off the course he should have been on.″

The Soviets charged that KAL Flight 007, en route from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seoul, was a spy mission when it was shot down Sept. 1, 1983. At the time it was more than 365 miles off course and was 30 miles northwest of a Soviet naval base on Sakhalin Island north of Japan.

U.S. and South Korean officials denied the charge.

The plane’s flight data recorder and the cockpit conversation recorder were never reported found.

Belli spoke on the inaugural day of a new telephone hotline designed to prevent similar disasters by linking air traffic controllers in the United States, Japan and the Soviet Union.

He said he would appeal to the Supreme Court a ruling by a U.S. District Court judge dismissing the suits by 100 plaintiffs against the U.S. government, the makers of the airplane and its guidance equipment, and Korean Air Lines, now called Korea Air.

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