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Lebed death crash pilots jailed

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NOVOSIBIRSK, Russia (Reuters) -- Two pilots have been handed jail terms for causing a helicopter crash in which Alexander Lebed, a tough-talking general who helped foil the 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev, was killed.

A Siberian judge on Tuesday ruled the crew's commander Takhir Akhmerov and second pilot Alexei Kurilovich had acted irresponsibly, leading to the crash in April 2002 that killed eight including Lebed, who had run for president against Boris Yeltsin in 1996.

Akhmerov was jailed for four years and Kurilovich for three.

"The crew showed criminal thoughtlessness which caused the air accident and the death of people," Interfax news agency quoted judge Sergei Afanasiev as saying.

The Mi-8 helicopter was carrying 19 officials and journalists to the inauguration ceremony of a ski area in Siberia's Krasnoyarsk territory where Lebed was governor.

Akhmerov will serve his sentence in a labour camp, while Kurilovich's three-year sentence has been suspended, a Krasnoyarsk administration official told Reuters.

Copyright 2004 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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