Nine Afghan aircraft hijackers have been leave to remain in the UK despite concerns from the country's government.

Judges in the UK ruled today that deporting the nine, led by led by brothers Ali and Mohammed Safi, would be a breach of their human rights.The move raises fears from pilots unions that the ruling could set a dangerous presedent.

The team hijacked an Ariana Afghan Airlines Boeing 727 on an internal flight from Mazar-e-Sharif to Afghan capital Kabul in February 2000.  They directed it via Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia to London where it landed at designated hijack airport Stansted.

The hijackers gave themselves up after a 70h standoff with police and UK special forces and sought immediate asylum fearing tortue from the then-ruling Islamic fundamentalist Taliban régime. The hijacking also led to asylum applications from the 78 passengers on board.

The UK government has fought against the ruling, having sought deportation since the hijackers' original sentences had been overturned in 2003. Pilots unions have warned that the ruling could set a "hijackers' charter".

Source: Flight International