–KULAEV FOUND GUILTY
Nur-Pashi Kulaev, said by the Russian authorities to be the soul surviving hostage-taker in the September 2004 attack on Beslan School No. 1, was declared guilty on May 16 for his role in the terrorist raid, in which 331 people, over half of them children, died. The Moscow Times reported that relatives of Beslan victims wept as Judge Tamerlan Aguzarov began a reading Kulaev’s verdict at the North Ossetia Supreme Court. The reading lasted four hours. Prosecutors are demanding Kulaev’s execution, though Russia has imposed a moratorium on the death penalty, and many relatives of victims agree with them that a death sentence should be carried out. Yet Reuters on May 18 quoted Ella Kesaeva, head of the Voice of Beslan group, as saying of Kulaev: “No one has said they saw him kill anyone. If they wanted to do this, they should have just locked him up without this nine-month trial.” Kasaeva, whose group has called for the prosecution of senior Federal Security Service (FSB) officials for failing to prevent the attack, added: “If the conclusion is that the only people to blame are Kulaev, the terrorists and a few policemen, then we will never find out the truth about how this happened. Then terrorist acts will thus repeat themselves.” Federal Deputy Prosecutor General Nikolai Shepel said the deadline for completing the investigation into the Beslan attack would be extended until July 1.
–MEMORIAL: OVER 1,800 ABDUCTIONS IN CHECHNYA SINCE 2002
Dmitry Grushkin of the Memorial human rights group told Interfax on May 12 that 1,893 residents of Chechnya have been kidnapped since 2002. Of those, he said, 653 were found alive, 186 were found dead, and 1,023 are still missing. According to Grushkin, 92 people were kidnapped between the beginning of this year and the start of May. Of these, 20 were released and six were found dead. “The number of kidnappings has decreased compared with last year; however, the issue remains a pressing one for Chechnya,” Grushkin said. He noted that Memorial monitors kidnappings for only 25-30 percent of Chechen territory.