Source AP ©

Release of Swiss air traffic controller's murderer is suspended

The highest court of Switzerland suspended Thursday release of Russian architect charged with stabbing to death an air traffic controller he blamed for the death of his wife and two children in a plane collision.

The Swiss Federal Tribunal approved a prosecutor's appeal and temporarily suspended the early release of Vitaly Kaloyev, which was set for Friday by a court in the canton (state) of Zurich.

Seventy-one people, mostly schoolchildren on a holiday trip to Spain, were killed in the July 1, 2002, crash of a Bashkirian Airlines plane and a DHL cargo jet.

Kaloyev was sentenced to eight years in prison after he was convicted in October 2005 of premeditated homicide in the killing of Danish-born Peter Nielsen, an air traffic controller with Swiss company Skyguide. Nielsen was the only person on duty when the planes collided five years ago in airspace he was responsible for over southern Germany.

The sentence was later appealed and returned to the Superior Court for reexamination.

Last month a court reduced the sentence to five and a quarter years. The Superior Court of canton (state) of Zurich then reduced it further, taking into account diminished responsibility because of the death of Kaloyev's wife and children.

But the Zurich cantonal (state) prosecutor appealed to the Federal Tribunal to increase the sentence to 12 years or to send back the case to the cantonal Superior Court for a longer term.

Kaloyev has acknowledged that he must have killed Nielsen in February 2004, but said he could not remember the slaying.

Separate court proceedings are under way against eight Skyguide employees to determine who is responsible for the crash. A verdict is expected in September.

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