Switzerland: Russian architect found guilty of air traffic controller’s murder

The Zurich Superior Court is expected to pass sentence later Wednesday in the case of Vitaly Kaloyev, who has acknowledged that he must have killed Peter Nielsen in February 2004, but said he could not remember the slaying. Premeditated homicide is a lesser charge than murder and carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison under Swiss law.

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

Nielsen, 36, died of multiple stab wounds in front of his wife in his back yard. Kaloyev was later arrested in Zurich, the AP reports.

Kaloyev's lawyers pleaded for manslaughter and said the defendant was tormented by great psychological distress at the time of the crime. They said any prison term should not exceed three years.

Nielsen was the sole controller on duty when the midair collision occurred over southern Germany, in the airspace supervised by Skyguide.

Nielsen gave only 44 seconds' warning to a Bashkirian Airlines plane and a DHL cargo aircraft that they were getting too close to each other. He told the Russian plane to descend - sending the jetliner straight into the cargo jet.

The crash killed 71 people, including Kaloyev's wife and his two children who were on their way to visit him in Spain, where he was working. He immediately went to the crash site and found his daughter's body almost intact.

A psychiatric opinion prepared for the court said Kaloyev would have had diminished understanding of his actions, and that he might suffer from a personality disorder. A.M.

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