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GORNO-ALTAISK, September 5 (Itar-Tass) — The Kosh-Agach district court of the Republic of Altai (RA) will begin, on September 15, a retrial of the case over the illegal aerial hunting in an Altai preserve, in which a Mi-171 helicopter crashed killing several people on board in 2009, the Court's spokesman Akhmat Savinakov told Itar-Tass on Monday.
On August 11, the republic's Supreme Court met the prosecutors' appeal and overturned the not-guilty verdict the district court passed on May 23. The case was sent for retrial by a new panel of judges.
Savinakov said the case was forwarded to the Kosh-Agach court on August 23 and handed over to judge Viktor Alekhovikov.
On May 23, the court acquitted former deputy chairman of the Altai government Anatoly Bannykh, director general of the Ineko company Boris Belinsky and deputy director of the Moscow-based Institute of Economy and Legislation Nikolai Kapranov.
They were accused of hunting argalis, the mountain rams listed in the Endangered Species Book.
During the inquest, Bannykh, Belinsky and Kapranov denied participation in the poaching raid. The defendants waived the final statement at the last hearing, and did not attend the reading of the verdict.
The Mi-171 helicopter belonged to the Tomsk-based Gazpromavia airline. It crashed on January 9, 2009 as it was flying en route Biisk-Chemal-Kosh Agach. After a three-day search, the helicopter was found in the area of Mt. Chernaya.
Four people survived the crash. Seven died, including presidential representative at the State Duma Alexander Kosopkin and head of the Altai government's committee on the protection of fauna Viktor Kaimin.
Three slain mountain rams were found aboard the helicopter. There are only some 200 argalis in Russia.
According to the indictment of the 12-volume criminal case, Bannykh, Belinsky and Kapranov were accused of the commission of the crime covered by Article 258, Part 2 (illegal helicopter hunting of endangered species causing large damage).
The damage caused by the illegal hunting is estimated at 900,000 roubles.
The defendants face 100,000- to 300,000-rouble fines or one of two years worth of the defendant's wages or three years in jail.
Experts said the helicopter crash was caused by a piloting error. At some point during the flight, the pilot was not at the controls, but was steering the helicopter just before the crash.
The Interstate Aviation Committee noted that the factors contributing to the air accident were an arbitrary change of the flight mission by the crew commander and "the performance of the flight to shoot wild animals from the helicopter without permission for such activities".
The poaching scandal was broadly covered by mass media. In February, Gorno-Altaisk residents organized rallies against increased cases of hunting for rare species. In March, the republic's Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Bannykh, one of the crash survivors, resigned.
The SK resumed the investigation into the criminal case twice: on November 11, 2009, and in January 2010.