Retrial of government official poachers may be postponed
GORNO-ALTAISK, November 29 - RAPSI. The court may postpone the retrial of high-ranking officials charged with hunting endangered animals during an ill-fated helicopter flight due to a defense attorney's health problems, the court told RIA Novosti on Tuesday.
A Mi-171 helicopter (Mi-8 modification) carrying high-ranking officials crashed in the vicinity of Chornaya Mountain in January 2009, killing seven passengers. Of the four passengers that survived the crash, three stood trial for illegally poaching endangered Argali Sheep.
However, an Altai district court acquitted the three for lack of evidence on May 23, 2010.
The prosecutor's office filed a cassation appeal of the acquittal. The Altai Supreme Court satisfied the appeal and remanded the case for review on August 11.
Photographs of the crash site were published on the Internet, showing Argali Sheep carcasses strewn amidst helicopter debris. The photographs caused a massive public outrage, especially since the animals are on Russian and international endangered species lists.
Argali hunting has been prohibited in Russia since 1930.
Scheduled for September 15 the retrial was delayed until November 30 at the request of defendant Anatoli Bannykh for health reasons.
The press secretary said that the court would determine whether to postpone the hearing at the Wednesday session set for 10:00 (17:00 Moscow time).
The defendants have denied shooting the endangered Argali sheep from the helicopter, and maintain that they were charged merely because they were onboard. They allege that investigators have failed to produce evidence of them personally having shot the sheep.
The prosecutor's office still believes the Altai Supreme Court has passed a grounded judgment.