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Kaloyev found guilty of intentional killing

Kaloyev received an eight-year sentence for killing the Danish air traffic controller

(Keystone)

A Russian man who lost his family in a plane crash has been found guilty by a Zurich court of the intentional killing of the air traffic controller on duty.

Vitaly Kaloyev was sentenced to eight years in prison. Russian authorities said they would seek his extradition so that he can serve his sentence in Russia.

The Zurich cantonal court judged that the accused wanted to kill his victim, at least after the first blows with the knife. Kaloyev's wife and two children were killed in the 2002 Überlingen crash.

The victim, a 36-year-old Dane, was on duty when two jets collided in mid-air in Swiss airspace in July 2002. He was stabbed to death in front of his wife at the family home near Zurich on February 24, 2004.

Kaloyev acknowledged in court that he must have killed the victim but said he could not remember the incident. The 49-year-old told the court that he never wanted to cause physical suffering to anybody.

Ulrich Weder, the Zurich cantonal prosecutor, had asked the court to sentence Kaloyev to 12 years' imprisonment. He argued that the crime was clearly premeditated homicide, but fell short of murder because Kaloyev had not acted out of malice.

Call for leniency

Kaloyev was arrested the day after the killing in Zurich. His lawyers pleaded for manslaughter, saying that the defendant was tormented by great psychological distress at the time of the crime. They asked for a more lenient sentence of three years.

The crash killed 71 people, including Kaloyev's wife and his two children who were on their way to visit him in Spain.

The trial is being closely followed in Russia, especially in Bashkortostan and North Ossetia, where most of the victims, including Kaloyev's family, came from.

The controller was working the nightshift on his own in Skyguide's Zurich operations centre when a Russian passenger jet and a DHL cargo place collided in mid-air on his watch.

Three months after his death, Germany's Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau partially blamed the controller for the crash.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

On July 1, 2002, a Bashkirian Airlines passenger jet collided with a DHL cargo plane in Swiss air space, killing 71 people, 45 of them children.

On February 24, 2004, a Skyguide air traffic controller, who was on duty at the time of the accident, was stabbed to death. The next day, Russian architect Vitaly Kaloyev, whose wife and two children died in the crash, was arrested by police.

On October 26, 2005, Kaloyev was found guilty of intentional killing by a Zurich court.

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