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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 October 2005, 16:41 GMT 17:41 UK
Man jailed for air traffic murder
Crashed Russian jet
Vitaly Kaloyev's wife and two children died in the plane crash
A Russian man has been sentenced to eight years in jail for killing an air-traffic controller he blamed for the loss of his family in an air crash.

A Swiss court found Vitaly Kaloyev guilty of the premeditated killing of Peter Nielsen, who was stabbed to death at his home in Zurich in 2004.

Kaloyev's wife and two children were among 71 people killed when two planes collided in Swiss airspace in 2002.

Premeditated killing is a lesser charge than murder under Swiss law.

Prosecutors had called for a 12-year sentence for Kaloyev, while his defence lawyers said he should not receive more than three years for the crime.

Kaloyev had earlier made a partial confession, insisting that the attack on Nielsen, stabbed in front of his own three children, was not pre-meditated.

"I went to Nielsen as a father who loves his children so he could see the photos of my dead children and next to them his kids, who were alive," he said in court.

"Everyone can make mistakes, but these are my children."

Rallies in support

Nielsen was alone on duty at Zurich air traffic control when a Russian passenger plane flying from Moscow to Barcelona collided with a DHL cargo jet.

Aboard the jet was Kaloyev's family, flying to visit him in Spain, where he was working as an architect.

Nielsen, who had not been told that the collision-avoidance system was not fully working, warned the pilots only 43 seconds before they collided.

The investigation into the accident, by Swiss, German, Russian and American specialists, revealed numerous shortcomings in the work of SkyGuide, the Swiss air-traffic control service.

However, to Moscow's fury, SkyGuide blamed the Russian crew.

Most seriously, they repeatedly accused them of failing to carry out instructions when ordered. That turned out to be untrue.

Investigators found that the crash resulted from a combination of human error, systems failures and technical problems.

In Russia, Mr Kaloyev's actions are widely seen as a crime of passion, notes BBC analyst Stephen Eke, and many Russians see the initial Swiss response as a demonstration of anti-Russian prejudice.

SkyGuide has since accepted full responsibility and asked relatives of the victims for forgiveness.

There have been rallies of support for Mr Kaloyev in Moscow and North Ossetia, his home region.


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