CORRECTED: Beslan rebel committed terrorism: Russian judge
(Please read in 3rd paragraph …The court has established
the participation of the defendant… instead of …The court
has established the guilt of the defendant.)
By Oliver Bullough
MOSCOW (Reuters) – A Russian judge said on Tuesday the only
surviving member of the group that seized a school and 1,300
hostages in the town of Beslan in 2004 had committed an act of
terrorism, as he began reading his verdict in the trial.
Prosecutors have requested the death penalty for Chechen
Nurpashi Kulayev, born in 1980, although an official moratorium
on capital punishment would lead to such a sentence being
changed to one of life imprisonment.
“The court has established the participation of the
defendant in murder and attempted murder, in conducting a
terrorist act, in taking part in a bandit group, in taking
hostages, in illegally storing and transporting weapons,”
Itar-Tass news agency quoted the judge as saying.
The court is yet to pronounce whether it will formally find
the young Chechen, who says he was made to take part in the
raid against his will, guilty. The summing up will take several
Many survivors of the siege say Kulayev has been made a
scapegoat for officials who failed to prevent the rebel group
driving to Beslan on September 1, the first day of the new
school year and a day of celebration for children and their
Witnesses to the storm operation said a failure of
organization prevented injured hostages receiving medical care,
with traffic jams full of bleeding children building up, while
firemen lacked water and heavy weaponry was used despite not
all hostages being accounted for.
“Formally, Russia has the death penalty, the judge has the
right to impose it. He could use this option, if he wants to
show how tough our laws are,” said Sergei Nikitin, director of
rights group Amnesty International’s Moscow office.
“But we have a moratorium, so it will not actually be
conducted by the court. Then again, we all know the stories
about what happens to imprisoned Chechen fighters who suddenly
“get ill” and die in prison.”
An official probe into the tragedy said negligence and
incompetence had contributed to the disaster, which was sparked
by two unexplained explosions, although it disappointed
survivors by failing to name names.
Three policeman went on trial for criminal negligence in
March, but survivors’ activists say higher officials were
passing the buck, and should be made to answer for the
They have followed Kulayev’s trial closely, hoping it will
provide details they say were missing from the probes into the
unfolding of the tragedy.
“There is hope that he will still tell the truth, and
therefore we need him to live,” said Ella Kesayeva, head of
survivors’ pressure group the Voice of Beslan, when asked
whether she supported the death penalty for Kulayev.
“The prosecutor has not dug down to the truth, because they
have only one motive — to hide the facts of the security
services’ crimes … It is not only the terrorists who are to
blame in the Beslan tragedy, but also the Federal Security
Service,” she told Ekho Moskvy radio.